The Harlequin Ladybird

Harlequin Ladybird form spectabilis (Ben Deed)

 

#DontPanic! While even BBC Radio 4's Today program appears to have caved to the media scaremongering about the Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) this species is actually just doing what comes naturally!

The story of the Harlequin is one of good intentions but poor delivery. Brought to the UK as a voracious hunter of 'pest species' in greenhouses the Harlequin was introduced as a means of effective #biological control to minimise the use of pesticides. Great!

However, apparently poor forethought or containment meant it didn't take long before this species escaped into the wild.

First seen in the summer of 2004 the species rapidly spread across England and Wales. While some alien's pose little to no affect on our native #wildlife the Harlequin had an almost immediate negative affect on out native Ladybird's. A voracious hunter of aphids also turned out to be a hunter of other Ladybird species.

Populations of 7 and 2 spot crashed in response to the spread as they were both out-competed and eaten by the Harlequin.

The Harlequin has now spread across most of the UK and is a common sight. It is highly variable in it's spots and colouring though key features can help to easily distinguish it from our many native Ladybirds.

This time of year all Ladybirds are looking to find good hibernation sites to last out the winter. However, the vast numbers and large size of the Harlequin make it particularly noticeable!

More information on the Harlequin and other Ladybirds can be found on this article by UK Ladybird Survey Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) : https://www.ceh.ac.uk/news-and-media/blogs/why-are-some-ladybirds-so-var...

Please help support #conservation, #research and #monitoring by sending in your sightings of this (and other Ladybirds!) to the UK Ladybird Survey here: http://www.ladybird-survey.org/incidental_record.aspx or our website with a photo: https://www.activenaturalist.org.uk/mbb/record/sighting