Harlequin ladybird – one of many hundreds I’ve seen locally (and reported to the survey)
“The Asian harlequin ladybird has become the dominant species in the south east of England in less than four years, scientists have said.
A nationwide survey shows that the insect, which originated in Japan, has gone from a handful of sightings in 2004 to virtually total coverage of the South East and is now found as far afield as Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales…
…The harlequin, which was introduced into Europe as a form of biological control aimed at aphids, already rivals other model examples of invasive species without native enemies such as the grey squirrel.”
Why is this considered a problem? With its voracious appetite and longer breeding period there are fears it could threaten the survival of the 46 domestic ladybird species.
I live in Lincolnshire and saw my first harlequins in June 2007. Initially they were few and far between, but by the autumn their numbers had increased dramatically and I saw hundreds and hundreds of the things. I’m keeping a watchful eye on the ladybirds in my garden – to monitor any impact made by the invaders.
NB: The harlequin is described in the article as a garden ‘pest’ – not sure why, since it’s extremely good at eating aphids and other pests.
See Harlequin Ladybird Survey for more info about this voracious beast.