This sounds like a sci-fi movie, but an invasion of Harlequin ladybirds can be more of a horror …
As the cooler weather takes hold in the UK, many beetles begin to prepare for hibernation, also known as dia-pause, or “overwintering”. Ladybirds are no exception. They hibernate though the winter as adults, typically becoming active around April to find food. In summertime mated females lay eggs which develop into larvae, pupate, and hatch as adults around August time.
There are over 40 types of ladybird in the UK. Over recent years, there has been some concern that the newer varieties introduced into Britain to keep down other pests, such as aphids, may endanger our native ladybirds. One such species is the Harlequin ladybird (Harmonia Axyridis).
Why are the Harlequin Ladybirds a Threat?
The Harlequin ladybird is a non-native species, which was first spotted in the UK in 2004 originating from eastern Russia, China and Japan. They are a threat to native ladybirds because they are in competition for food, and also eat their larvae and eggs.
Why are the Harlequin Ladybirds a Pest?
As the temperature decreases, Harlequin ladybirds find a warm sheltered place to hibernate … including inside your home. One or two ladybirds might not be a problem, but Harlequin ladybirds often form in large clusters at this time of year.
On mild winter days, the ladybirds may wake up and have a potter around your house, producing a foul-smelling yellow liquid if they are disturbed, which can stain soft furnishings and is generally unpleasant.
Harlequin Ladybirds are very varied in appearance. Max Barclay, Senior Curator of Beetles at The Natural History Museum explains, “they have lots of colour forms. You can find different varieties, from orange ones, black one with red spots and more”. Due to this, the easiest way to identify them in by their orange coloured legs and bellies, as opposed to the native ladybirds which have black coloured legs and bellies. They can also be slightly bigger than the British native seven-spot ladybird, at around 7-8mm long.
Whilst Harlequin Ladybirds have historically been found mainly in south-east England, they are moving closer to the Midlands and increasing in numbers. Quoted in the Guardian, Dr Helen Roy, of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology explains, “The harlequin is the fastest-spreading alien species on record that I can think of.”
If I see a Harlequin Ladybird, should I Kill it?
Due to their varied appearance, it can be difficult to identify Harlequin Ladybirds from other endangered native species. Avon Pest Control recommends calling a professional pest controller for advice to ensure you do not accidentally kill a species already in decline.
If these spotty beetles are driving you dotty, call Avon Pest Control today on 01926 632 929 or 01789 293 463 or click here to visit or website for more information on our pest control services. Our qualified, responsible technicians will happily discuss your pest problem and provide friendly, expert advice.
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