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Aphid predator (Coleoptera : Coccinellidae)

Anatis ocellata

Eyed ladybird

On this page: Identification & Distribution Biological Control of Aphids Biology & Ecology

Identification & Distribution

The adult Anatis ocellata (eyed ladybird) has a variable number of black spots (usually 15-18, but may be 0-23) on a red background. Each spot is surrounded by a yellowish halo. The pronotum is black with a thick white U-shaped mark and two small white spots. The antennae are brown, and the legs are black and brown. Anatis ocellata is a large coccinellid, with a body length of 7-8.5 mm.

Second image above copyright Gilles San Martin under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

The fourth instar larva (see second picture above) is grey-black and conspicuously spiny. It has a medial orange area between the tubercles on the head and prothorax, and orange dorsolateral tubercles on the first and second abdominal segments. There are also whitish or orange spots along each side of the thoracic and abdominal midlines.

Both larval and adult eyed-ladybirds mainly feed on aphids on pine trees, especially the waxy grey pine needle aphid (Schizolachnus pineti). They are often reported to also feed on adelgids but we have not observed this.


Biological Control of Aphids

Anatis ocellata has not, as far as we know, been used in any classical biological control programme (= rearing and mass release) but it may well be involved in the natural regulation of various aphid conifer pests. Kesten (1969) believed that due to its large size, Anatis ocellata would be a significant enemy of Schizolachnus pineti, despite the activity of spiders and a pupal parasite in the family Phoridae.

Given aphids' potentially explosive reproductive potential, the combined effects of natural enemies are what normally keeps their populations in check.


Biology & Ecology

Kesten (1969) carried out investigations on the morphology, biology and ecology of the largest central European, yet little-known coccinellid species, Anatis ocellata both in the laboratory and in the field. His work focused on the orientation of the larvae and beetles, their search and the location of prey. Characteristic of Anatis ocellata are their positive phototaxis and the lack of sensory organs to perceive food at a distance. Thus, the success of their search for food essentially depends on chance, on the population density of the aphids, and on their own ability to move. Anatis ocellata is however very sensitive to the odor of pine needles. The olfactory stimuli emanating from these attract the beetles and thus indirectly lead them to their main food, the aphids feeding on pine needles. Breeding experiments showed the strong influence of the type and amount of food on the development and lifespan of these coccinellids. Anatis ocellata prefers the waxy grey pine needle aphid Schizolachnus pineti, but if it is absent it also takes other prey animals - and even vegetarian food.

We observed Anatis ocellata consuming different prey in Ashdown Forest in East Sussex. The coccinelid encountered a harvestman (Opiliones) as it was searching through the pine needles (see first picture below), and rapidly consumed it (see second picture below).

Sloggett and Majerus (2000) monitored the numbers of six species of coccinellid, two types of aphid, and ant presence or absence from spring to autumn in an English pine forest. The ladybirds comprised four conifer specialists (Myrrha 18-guttata, Anatis ocellata, Myzia oblongoguttata and Harmonia 4-punctata), the generalist, Coccinella 7-punctata and the myrmecophile, Coccinella magnifica. The aphids were Schizolachus pineti, which are usually not tended by ants, and two Cinara species, which were tended by southern wood ants (Formica rufa) in one of the plots. Anatis ocellata and Myrrha 18-guttata had little tolerance of ants, and only occurred in the ant plot after ants had disappeared in September. This was in contrast to Coccinella magnifica, which had considerable tolerance and is regarded as a myrmecophile. See also Majerus & Sloggett (2007).

Nikitsky & Ukrainsky (2016) also report that Anatis ocellata feeds most frequently on aphids on pine trees, but also occurs on spruces, birches and aspens. Savoiskaya et al. (1983) have recorded them feeding on cicadellid (leafhopper) larvae on Populus tremula (aspen). They also reported that the adults of Anatis ocellatae overwinter in leaf litter on the ground. The experimental work by Kalushkov & Hodek (2001) on new 'essential' prey for Anatis ocellata and Calvia quatuordecimguttata is rather misleading since in the field this predator is most unlikely to encounter the prey that were used in the experiment. Lebrun et al. (1997) identifed a new coccinellid defensive alkaloid from Anatis ocellata - 2-dehydrococcinelline.


For aphids we have made provisional identifications from high resolution photos of living specimens, along with host plant identity. In the great majority of cases, identifications have been confirmed by microscopic examination of preserved specimens. We have used the keys and species accounts of Blackman & Eastop (1994) and Blackman & Eastop (2006) supplemented with Blackman (1974), Stroyan (1977), Stroyan (1984), Blackman & Eastop (1984), Heie (1980-1995), Dixon & Thieme (2007) and Blackman (2010). We fully acknowledge these authors as the source for the (summarized) taxonomic information we have presented. Any errors in identification or information are ours alone, and we would be very grateful for any corrections. For assistance on the terms used for aphid morphology we suggest the figure provided by Blackman & Eastop (2006).

Useful weblinks


  • Kalushkov, P. & Hodek, I. (2001). New essential aphid prey for Anatis ocellata and Calvia quatuordecimguttata (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae). Biocontrol Science and Technology 11(1), 35-39. Abstract

  • Kesten, U. (1969). Zur Morphologie und Biologie von Anatis ocellata (L.) (Coleoptera, Coccinellidae). Journal of Applied Entomology 63 (1-4), 412-445. Abstract

  • Lebrun, B. et al. (1997). 2-Dehydrococcinelline, a new defensive alkaloid from the ladybird beetle Anatis ocellata (Coccinellidae). Journal of Natural Products 60(11), 1148-1149. Abstract

  • Majerus, M.E.N. et al. (2007). Interactions between ants and aphidophagous and coccidophagous ladybirds. Population Ecology 49, 15-27. Full text

  • Nikitsky, N.B. & Ukrainsky, A.S. (2016). The Ladybird Beetles (Coleoptera, Coccinellidae) of Moscow Province. Entomological Review 96(6), 710-735. Full text

  • Savoiskaya, G.A.. Coccinellid larvae (Coleoptera, Coccinellidae) of the Fauna of the USSR (Nauka, Leningrad Branch, Leningrad, 1983). (Keys to the Fauna of the USSR, Published by the Zoological Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, no. 137) (in Russian).

  • Sloggett, J.J. & Majerus, M.E.N. (2000). Aphid-mediated coexistence of ladybirds (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) and the wood ant Formica rufa: seasonal effects, interspecific variability and the evolution of a coccinellid myrmecophile. Oikos 89, 345-359. Abstract