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Aphid Predator (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae)

Propylea quattuordecimpunctata (= Propylea quatuordecimpunctata)

Fourteen-spot ladybird

On this page: Identification


Propylea quattuordecimpunctata is a medium sized coccinellid, 2.5-5 mm in length. The elytra are yellow (rarely cream or orange), each nominally with seven black spots (see first picture below), although these are often partially fused (see second picture below) or completely fused (see third picture below). There is also a rare melanic (=dark) - form merkeri. The pronotum is yellow with a large black patch which has four anterior projections, rarely as four distinct spots. The head of Propylea quattuordecimpunctata is yellow with the eyes black; males have a solid yellow 'face', females have a dark spot in the middle.

Fourth image above copyright Gilles San Martin under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

The Propylea quattuordecimpunctata fourth-instar larva (see fourth picture above) is grey-black with yellow markings. The prothoracic dorsum and most of the tubercles are grey-black, but there is a mid-dorsal row of pale yellow patches running from the mesothorax to the last abdominal segment - the patches are large on the meso and metathorax, and smaller on the abdominal segments except for a larger patch on segment IV. The pair of dorsal tubercles on abdominal segment IV, the dorso-lateral tubercles on segments I and IV, and most of the ventro-lateral tubercles are yellow. The head is mainly pale.

Biological control & Distribution

Propylea quattuordecimpunctata does not show a preference for any particular habitat, being found in broad-leaved and coniferous woodlands, meadows, moorlands and so on. It feeds mainly on aphids, and we have found it feeding on several species including Periphyllus on sycamore and Chaitophorus populeti on white poplar. The fourteen-spot ladybird will also take coccids, aleyrodids and insect eggs. It has not as far as we know been used for augmentative biological control in Europe, but in North America attempts were made to introduce as part of a 'classical biological control' programme. Repeated unsuccessful attempts were made prior to the 1960s, but it then became established in North America following an accidental introduction via European shipping. By the 1990s it was recorded in nine states in the USA. Further releases were then made for control of the Russian wheat aphid (Diuraphis noxius) in the USA, but these were not thought to have resulted in any more established populations. The natural distribution of Propylea quattuordecimpunctata extends throughout the Palearctic zone.


For Coccinellid identification and species descriptions we have used Watford Coleoptera Group for the key characteristics, together with the latest Wikipediaaccount for each species. For aphids we have made provisional identifications from photos of living specimens, along with host plant identity using 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).

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