They typically are black with red or yellow markings. They can be difficult to distinguish from each other. A similar species is the twice stabbed lady beetle, Chilocorus stigma, which is common around scale infestations but larger than Hyperaspsis species.
The larvae are covered in white wax making them look something like mealybugs. I found some feeding on tuliptree scale in Asheville last year. Its important to recognize these so you don’t think you have a double infestation of scales and mealybugs. Its easy to tell the difference since they move much faster than mealybugs (meaning that they actually move).
Hyperaspis binotata occurs throughout eastern North America. Beetles overwinter at the base of infested trees and leaf litter. They emerge from hibernation in early spring around the time many of its prey also resume feeding and development. Eggs are deposited singly near scales. The H. binotata life cycle requires about 39 days to complete.
A single Hyperaspis larvae may consume up to 3000 terrapin scale nymphs to complete development. They are probably critical to regulating scale insect abundance in natural habitats. We are not sure how well they perform this service in urban areas. Hyperaspis spp. and other natural enemies are killed by many insecticides. Protecting natural enemies can be critical to reducing urban scale insect outbreaks as seen during wide-spread spray campaigns to control nuisance flies or landscape pests.More information and pictures are on Dr. Mike Raupp’s ‘Bug of the Week’ website: http://bugoftheweek.com/blog/2013/1/7/waxy-ladies-hyperaspis-lady-bugs and in the publication by from which I copied the pictures above.
Simanton, F.L. 1916. Hyperaspis binotata, a predatory enemy of the terrapin scale. Journal of Agricultural Research, vol. VI, no. 5, pp. 197-204.