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Large spotted ladybird - Harmonia conformis

By N A Martin (2016, revised 2019)

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Click to collapse Classification Info





Harmonia conformis (Boisduval, 1835)

Click to collapse Common names Info

Large spotted ladybird, Common Spotted Ladybird (Australia)

Click to collapse Synonyms Info

Leis conformis (Boisduval, 1835)

Coccinella conformis Boisduval, 1835

Click to collapse Biostatus and distribution Info

This distinctive adventive ladybird is from Australia and was first released into New Zealand in 1896. It is found in Northland, Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Coromandel, Waikato and Whanganui in the North Island. It is found in crops, parks, gardens and native ecosystems on trees and shrubs and other plants. It feeds on small insects including native species.

Conservation status: This adventive ladybird is present in northern North Island. It feeds on native insects. It may control some aphids, psyllids and other small insects on economic and ornamental plants.

Click to collapse Life stages and annual cycle Info

The black and orange adults are about 5.5-7.0 millimetres long. Typically the head, prothorax (first part of the middle body) and elytra (wing covers) are orange with black spots. The size of the spots is variable between beetles and in some they can partly merge. The area and shape of black areas on the prothorax is also variable. Some ladybirds are completely dark grey or black on top (dorsal side). The underside of the ladybird varies from mid-brown to black. There are three pairs of brown legs. Under the elytra is a pair of wings used for flying. The small head is mainly pale orange and has a pair of compound eyes and two short antennae. The antennae are brown.

Female ladybirds lay yellow eggs near infestations of prey. A larva hatches from each egg. There are four larval instars (stages). As the larva grows, it moults (changes skin). The newly hatched larva is dark grey with short black scoli (flesh extensions with setae), and black legs and prothorax (first segment with legs). The second instar larva is similarly coloured, but with white/yellowish scoli on the upper side of the fourth abdominal segment. The third and fourth instar larvae have various combinations of colour on the upper side of the prothorax and abdomen, though the pale tubercles on the upper side of the fourth abdominal segment are always yellow. The prothorax may be black or yellow. The scoli, tubercles, on the first and fourth abdominal segments are usually yellow, while on the fifth to seventh abdominal segments the scoli may be black or yellow. There are three pairs of legs. Larvae also use the tip of the abdomen for holding onto the substrate on which they are walking.

The tip of the abdomen also holds the larva to the surface during moulting both to another larval instar and to a pupa. When the fourth larval instar is fully grown, it attaches itself to a sheltered place on a plant. The pupa is pale brown with dark patches on the abdomen, wing buds and thorax. Adults hatch from pupae and mate. The length of time of each life stage depends on temperature, being shorter at higher temperatures.

Annual cycle

The ladybird overwinters as adults. Larvae been found in spring. There are at least three generations per year in Auckland.

Walking and flying

Both adult and larval stages of this ladybird have three pairs of legs that can be used for walking. Larvae also use the tip of the abdomen for holding onto the substrate. Adults have wings and can fly.


The adult and larval ladybirds eat small insects such as aphids, psyllids and mealybugs. The jaws are the primarily structures used for holding and chewing the prey. Legs do not appear to be used for holding food.

Click to collapse Recognition Info

The size and arrangement of spots make the typical adult large spotted ladybird easy to recognise. However, it can be confused with the leaf eating hadda beetle, Epilachna vigintioctopunctata (Fabricius, 1775), which is also a large spotted ladybird. The size of the spots of adults of the large spotted ladybird are variable, but where they are distinct they have two sets of spots on the mid line and then an in between pair of spots on either side of the mid line. However, where most of the spots have partly merged, the central pair of spots on the mid line may also join. The dark grey or black adults have no spots. The surface of the elytra is smooth and shiny.

The head, prothorax and elytra of the hadda beetle are covered with short fine hairs. The other big difference is the arrangement of spots on the elytra. Along the mid line one pair of spots are joined or almost joined and two pairs of spots on either side are clearly separated.

The large spotted ladybird can be distinguished from the Antipodean ladybird (Harmonia antipodum Mulsant, 1848) by the shape of the pair of black areas on the pronotum. In the Antipodean ladybird it is a simple short straight line, while in the large spotted they are U-shaped when seen from the top. Sometimes the marks may be W-shaped. The shape of the black marks on the pronotum also distinguish the large spotted ladybird from the Harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis (Pallas, 1773)). From the top the black marks on the pronotum are M-shaped. Another possible distinguishing feature of the Harlequin ladybird is that the background colour of its face and pronotum is white.

Older larvae of the large spotted ladybird have variable colour patterns. There are certain consistent features that may be distinctive and help their recognition, but larvae of other New Zealand ladybirds in the genus Harmonia are inadequately known. Key features of large spotted ladybird larvae are the pale scoli (fleshy spikes) on the top of abdominal segments 1 and 4. The yellow prothorax and yellow areas on abdominal segments 5, 6 and 7 are optional. However, occasionally the pale tubercles on the top of abdominal segment 1 may be absent.

The pale brown pupae have darker patches on the wings, prothorax and abdomen that may be distinctive.

Click to collapse Natural enemies Info

No pathogens of the large spotted ladybird have been recorded in New Zealand. They are probably preyed upon by shining cuckoo, Chaleites lucidus (Gmelin, 1788) and possibly by other predatory insects.

One adventive parasitoid, Dinocampus coccinellae (Shrank, 1802) (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) of adult ladybirds is known to attack the large spotted ladybird.

Click to collapse Prey/hosts Info

Both adults and larvae of the large spotted ladybird feed on aphids, psyllids and mealybugs. In Australia they have been observed feeding on larvae of other species of ladybirds. They are found in association with their prey on trees and shrubs.

Table: Prey of Large spotted ladybird, Harmonia conformis (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae), from Plant-SyNZ database (5 September 2016). The reliability score shows the quality of evidence for the host association (0-10, 10=high quality).
Scientific NameCommon NameClassification Reliability IndexBiostatus
Acizzia acaciae (Maskell, 1894) Hemiptera: Psyllidae10adventive
Acizzia uncatoides (Ferris & Klyver, 1932)Acacia psyllidHemiptera: Psyllidae10adventive
Bactericera cockerelli (Sulc, 1909)Tomato potato psyllidHemiptera: Triozidae8adventive
Ctenarytaina sp. 'Acmena' of Dale 2011 Hemiptera: Psyllidae9adventive
Drepanosiphum platanoidis (Schrank, 1801)Sycamore aphidHemiptera: Aphididae9adventive
Paropsis charybdis Stal, 1860Eucalyptus tortoise beetleColeoptera: Chrysomelidae6adventive
Pseudococcus longispinus (Targioni Tozzetti, 1867)Long-tailed mealybugHemiptera: Pseudococcidae10adventive
Trioza vitreoradiata (Maskell, 1879)Pittosporum psyllidHemiptera: Triozidae10endemic
Tuberolachnus salignus (Gmelin, 1790)Giant willow aphidHemiptera: Aphididae10adventive

Click to collapse Additional information Info

Biological control of pests

In gardens and parks this ladybird contributes to the control of aphids, psyllids and other insects on trees, shrubs and tall herbs. For example, they can be seen in colonies of psyllids in hedges of karo, Pittosporum crassifolium.

Diverse habits of 'ladybirds'

Not all ladybirds eat insects; some feed on mites. Other species eat plant leaves and are pests especially in some tropical countries, whereas other ladybirds feed on fungi. One of these, Illeis galbula (Mulsant, 1850), from Australia feeds on powdery mildew fungi. In New Zealand it is common on pumpkins and other cucurbits, plants that are commonly infected by powdery mildews. A plant feeding ladybird, hadda beetle (Epilachna vigintioctopunctata (Fabricius, 1775)) recently established in Auckland feeds on plants in the Solanaceae (potato family).

Click to collapse Information sources Info

Slipinski A, Hastings A, Boyd B 2007. Ladybirds of Australia. Retrieved April 2011.

Thomas WP 1989. Aphididae, aphids (Homoptera). In: Cameron PJ, Hill RL, Bain J, Thomas WP ed. A review of Biological Control of Invertebrates Pests and Weeds in New Zealand 1874 to 1987. Technical Communication No. 10. Wallingford, England, UK, CAB International Institute of Biological Control. Pp. 55-66.

Valentine EW 1967. A list of the hosts of entomophagous insects of New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Science 10(4): 1100-1209.

Click to collapse Acknowledgements Info

Alan Flynn for information on the current distribution of the ladybird.

The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited (Plant & Food Research) for permission to use photographs.

Click to collapse Other images Info

Click to collapse Update history Info

1 November 2019. NA Martin. Three photos added of an adult with merging black spots.

1 November 2018. NA Martin. Changed symbol used for apostrophes.

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