Invasive ladybirds infest UK!
Ladybird, or ladybug as the Yanks call it, is a collective term for the family of beetles with the scientific name Coccinellidae. We know ladybirds as cute, round, flying insects that usually have a bright red shell with black polka dots.
Harlequin ladybugs were introduced in North America from their native Asia to combat aphid infestations, but are now the most common ladybug species there. The same is now occurring in Europe, including the UK.
Harlequin ladybirds eat all 46 of the UK’s native ladybird species. They also leave orange stains on curtains and wallpaper. This is a particular problem now in the UK, after an unusually wet summer, which saw harlequin populations explode. The ‘interloping’ ladybirds now escape the cold of British winter by taking shelter inside people’s homes.
While the two-spotted and seven-spotted varieties are emblematic of the British countryside, the larger harlequin, first seen in the UK in 2004 and now numbering billions, has become the nation’s most abundant species. Rather than feasting on aphids and greenfly, the harlequin also eats lacewings, hoverflies and even other ladybirds.
I’m not too sure what the big deal is about the ladybugs, save that they are proving to be a bit of a nuisance in some homes and the fact that their cannibalism is a little disturbing from a human perspective. There is also something unsavory about invasive species driving natives to extinction, but perhaps this is just a bit of (albeit human assisted) Darwinism.