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Southern Ladybird - Cleobora mellyi

By N A Martin (2016 revised 2019)

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Click to collapse Classification Info





Cleobora mellyi (Mulsant, 1850)

Click to collapse Common names Info

Southern ladybird, Tasmanian ladybird

Click to collapse Synonyms Info

Cleodora mellyi Mulsant, 1850

Click to collapse Biostatus and distribution Info

This adventive ladybird comes from Tasmania and southern areas of mainland Australia, hence its common names. Adults and larvae live in trees feeding on soft-bodied insects and their eggs. It was released into New Zealand in 1977 for the biological control of eucalypt tortoise beetle, Paropsis charybdis (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). It only survived in Marlborough. In 2006 and 2007, the ladybirds were again spread to other parts of New Zealand. It has now established in Northland, Auckland and Bay of Plenty. It favours places with Acacia species that harbour abundant leaf feeding psyllids

Conservation status: This strikingly coloured ladybird is being actively spread around New Zealand for control of leaf feeding beetles and psyllids on Eucalyptus and Acacia species.

Click to collapse Life stages and annual cycle Info

Annual cycle

Adults overwinter, hiding under bark and similar places. In spring, they lay eggs on plants with abundant prey for the larvae. There are probably several generations per year.

Life stages

The adults grow up to 7 millimetres long. The head, prothorax (first part of the middle body) and elytra (wing covers) are shiny yellow-orange with prominent zig-zag black lines. The black pattern is variable and the back ground colour varies from yellow to orange-red. The legs and antennae are coloured yellow and black. Under the elytra is a pair of wings used for flying. The head has a pair of compound eyes and two antennae. Female ladybirds lay clusters of yellow eggs near infestations of prey. A long, dark larva hatches from each egg. The three pairs of legs are used for walking. As the larva grows, it moults (changes skin). There are four larval instars (stages). The last larval stage is dark coloured with distinctive pattern of yellow tubercles on the abdomen. The front of the head is tan coloured. When the fourth larval instar is fully grown, it attaches itself to a sheltered place on a plant and moults into a pupa. The pupa has short distinctive 'wings'. Adults hatch from pupae and mate. The length of time of each life stage depends on temperature, being shorter at higher temperatures.

Walking and flying

Both adult and larval stages of this citrus whitefly ladybird have three pairs of legs that can be used for walking. Adults have wings and can fly. In warm weather, they fly readily if disturbed.


The adult and larval ladybirds eat psyllids (Hemiptera: Psyllidae) and the eggs and larvae of Tortoise beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) that live on Acacia and Eucalyptus trees. 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

Adult Southern ladybirds have a distinctive appearance with black markings on background colour that varies from yellow to orange-red. The black zig-zag markings on the elytra (wing covers) are variable, but there are usually 3-4 lines of markings. The adult fungus-eating ladybird, Illeis galbula is also coloured yellow with black bands, but there are fewer black bands.

Larval Southern ladybirds are also distinctive. The large larvae are dark and slender, with distinctive pattern of yellow tubercles on the abdomen. There is a pair of lateral yellow tubercles on the first abdominal segment and a pair of yellow tubercles on the mid line of abdominal segment 4. There also lateral yellow tubercles on segments 4-8. Several other ladybirds have dark larvae with some yellow tubercles. The larvae of two-spotted ladybird, Adalia bipunctata have similar lateral yellow tubercles on abdominal segment 1 and it has a yellow area between the central tubercles on abdominal segment 4. However, the head is dark coloured.

The black and yellow pupa is also distinctively coloured and has short abdominal 'wings'.

Click to collapse Natural enemies Info

No natural enemies of the southern ladybird are known in New Zealand. They are probably preyed upon by birds, spiders and predatory insects.

Click to collapse Prey/hosts Info

In New Zealand the Southern ladybird is known to feed on tortoise beetle eggs and larvae, psyllids and aphids. Outdoors it is associated with prey on trees. The ladybird also feeds on its own larvae.

Table: Prey of Southern ladybird, Cleobora mellyi (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae), from Plant-SyNZ database (23 November 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 acaciaebaileyanae (Froggatt, 1901)Cootamundra wattle psyllidHemiptera: Psyllidae10adventive
Acizzia uncatoides (Ferris & Klyver, 1932)Acacia psyllidHemiptera: Psyllidae10adventive
Bactericera cockerelli (Sulc, 1909)Tomato potato psyllidHemiptera: Triozidae7adventive
Cleobora mellyi (Mulsant, 1850)Southern ladybirdColeoptera: Coccinellidae10adventive
Dicranosterna sempipunctata (Chapuis, 1877)Acacia tortoise beetleColeoptera: Chrysomelidae8adventive
Macrosiphum euphorbiae (Thomas, 1878)Potato aphidHemiptera: Aphididae6adventive
Myzus persicae (Sulzer, 1776)Green peach aphidHemiptera: Aphididae6adventive
Paropsis charybdis Stal, 1860Eucalyptus tortoise beetleColeoptera: Chrysomelidae8adventive

Click to collapse Additional information Info

Biological control of pests

The Southern Ladybird, Cleobora mellyi, was released inot New Zealand in 1977 for control of the Eucalyptus tortoise beetle, Paropsis charybdis (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). The ladybird fed on the eggs and larvae of the beetle. Many years later it was found to have only survivied in the Marlborough Sounds, in a mixed Eucalyptus and Acacia plantation. It appears that the ladybird needs to feed on psyllids in order to survive.

The ladybird was redistributed in 2006 and 2007, because it was found to feed on the blackwood tortoise beetle, Dicranosterna semipunctata, which was first discovered in Auckland in 1996.

The Southern ladybird has also been found to feed on the tomato potato psyllid, Bactericera cockerelli, (Hemiptera: Triozidae) and aphids in captivity. Tomato potato psyllid is a pest of several vegetable crops belonging to the family, Solanaceae, including potatoes. However, it only feeds on tomato potato psyllid when kept in an enclosure with psyllid infested plants. The ladybird normally lives in trees not on low growing plants.

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

Cleobora mellyi. Atlas of Living Australia., (Accessed 2016 November).

Bain J. 2013. Cleobora mellyi., (Accessed 2016 November).

Satchell D. 2010. Cleobora mellyi, the southern ladybird in New Zealand: Control of Eucalypt and Blackwood Pests with the Southern Ladybird- A Possibility? Farm Forestry New Zealand. , (Accessed 2016 November).

Click to collapse Acknowledgements Info

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

New Zealand Forest Research Institute Ltd (Scion) for permission to use photographs.

John Bain for providing photographs of eggs, larva and pupa.

Click to collapse Update history Info

1 November 2019. NA Martin. Added three photos of adult collected in Auckland City.

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

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