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Coccinellids are small insects, ranging from 1 mm to 10 mm (0.04 to 0.4 inches), and are commonly yellow, orange, or scarlet with small black spots on their wing covers, with black legs, head and antennae. Such color patterns vary greatly however; for example, a minority of species, such as Vibidia duodecimguttata, a twelve-spotted species, have whitish spots on a brown background. A specimen of Harmonia axyridis in South Africa, freshly out of its pupa. Its black spots will develop as its exoskeleton hardens.
In this coccinellid the black spots are so large that they meet and leave only patches of yellow as spots. In some species the black is so extensive as to form the background to small coloured spots. In some species either type of pattern occurs. This yellow-shouldered ladybird (Apolinus lividigaster) feeding on an aphid has only two colour spots. Some species have none. In some species the spots are so large that they merge, leaving the remaining bright colours as spots on a black background. Many coccinellid species are mostly, or entirely, black, grey, or brown and may be difficult for non-entomologists to recognize as coccinellids at all. Conversely, non-entomologists might easily mistake many other small beetles for coccinellids. For example the tortoise beetles, like the ladybird beetles, look similar because they are shaped so that they can cling to a flat surface so closely that ants and many other enemies cannot grip them.