Length: 5 - 8mm. Background colour: red. Pattern colour: black spots. Number of spots: 0-9 (7). Spot fusions: very rare. Melanic (black) forms: very rare. Pronotum: black with anterior-lateral white marks. Leg colour: black. Other features: can be distinguished from the scarce 7-spot by presence of small white triangular marks on the underside, below only the middle pair of legs (the scarce 7-spot has an additional pair of white marks under the hind legs).
Fourth-instar larva: dark grey/black with bluish tinge; with black tubercles producing fine hairs; dark orange lateral patches on first thoracic segment; sides of second and third thoracic segments dark grey/ black; middle and outer tubercles on abdominal segments one and four dark orange. Pupa: often pale orange with two rows of dark triangular markings running down the middle; four small dark spots on anterior section. However, (as with other ladybirds) the amount of melanin (black pigment) decreases with developmental temperature, so some 7-spot pupae are darker than others.
Habitats: 7-spot ladybirds are found in many habitats (including dunes, grassland, heathland, scrub, coniferous, deciduous and mixed woodland) but usually on low herbage. This species is very common in agro-ecosystems and can be found on both cereals and broad-leaved crops such as field beans.
Host plants: 7-spot ladybirds are found associated with an extensive range of host plants, which reflects the variety of aphids that they consume. The species is often found on low herbage including nettle (very commonly associated with this plant in spring), rosebay willowherb, thistles, cow parsley, wild carrot, yarrow, ragwort, heathers, angelica, hogweed, fat-hen, reeds, dead-nettle and mugwort. 7-spot ladybirds are found on numerous garden plants including roses, lavender, buddleja, wallflowers, peonies and camellias. It is a species commonly associated with crop plants and vegetables, particularly field beans. 7-spot ladybirds are often found in hawthorn hedgerows and occasionally on trees (including oak, limes, sycamore, Douglas fir and Scots pine) and can often be seen on ivy growing around the trunks.
Overwintering sites: 7-spot ladybirds overwinter in a variety of places including low herbage, gorse, conifer foliage and in leaf litter, often in curled dead leaves. In the autumn it is very common to see this species sheltering in senescing seed heads, such as those forming on rosebay willowherb, teasel and cow parsley.