The phenotypic and genetic variability of the aposematic colour pattern of the two-spot ladybird was investigated. There was significant variation in spot size (relative to elytron length) among wild populations of ladybirds. A quantitative genetic analysis revealed high heritability estimates for a number of individual colour pattern elements on the pronotum and elytra. The genetic covariances between the elytral spot and the pronotal spots were generally negative and all of the covariances among the pronotal spots were positive. This pattern of covariances could be explained if natural selection acts so as to maximize the combined anti-predator effect of the pronotal and elytral colour patterns by optimizing the rate of melanin production. An optimization process could also account for the significant levels of additive genetic variation found for each of the pattern elements considered. There was no evidence of any sex-linked gene expression for colour pattern, although female colour pattern may be influenced by maternally inherited factors.