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Harlequin Ladybird Updated 15/10/2007

The Harlequin ladybird, Harmonia axyridis, described as the most invasive ladybird on Earth has been found in Earley. Roy Shannon, an EEG member, photographed this on 14th Nov 2006 and another one was found the same morning on the inside of a member's car windscreen.

First introduced to North America in 1988, it is now the most widespread ladybird species there. It has invaded much of north western Europe and arrived in Britain in summer 2004.

Harlequin LadybirdThis photograph was identified by member Stuart Hine, of the Natural History Museum. He wrote -

'This is a very variable Ladybird with many forms; this is by far the most attractive form. The jury is still out on whether this will have any significant effect on UK Ladybird species. I am in the camp that says it will not, and so far this is not really a hypothesis, rather conjecture and speculation - there being no UK data to base this on. This species has a later season than our 7-Spot Ladybird (about the only Ladybird it can be confused with) and adults are found well into October and even November. I had another reported sighting last week - the first that I have heard from the Reading area - and I have not seen any in Earley yet.'

harlequin Ladybird 2When asked if, when finding one, it should be disposed of (that is, squashed!), he said there was 'little point as individual action in this way will make no difference to the spread of this species. Besides, they are very attractive ladybirds.'

See http://www.harlequin-survey.org/recording.htm for information or if reporting a find

Thanks to Roy Shannon for the photographs, and to Stuart Hine for the identification and information.

Update on Harlequins in October 2007

There have been two reports from EEG members of Harlequin ladybirds this Autumn.

Duncan in Stanton Close, Sept 2007: I have recently discovered a cohort of harlequin ladybirds in my garden. These are non-native ladybirds, which have raised a lot of interest (see website). http://www.harlequin-survey.org/default.htm. I found the dark melanic version.

Harlequin Ladybird 3Gillian in Kerris Way, Oct 2007: She has observed several harlequin ladybirds in her garden in October 2007. These have been identified as Harmonia axyridis by the Harlequin survey at Monks Wood.

A fellow member, Stuart, who is an expert in insect identification, brings the subject up-to-date with this comment :

"Well, as far as I am concerned this species made its first showing in Earley last year (2006); it was also very prolific along the Kennet near Fobney suggesting that it was in its second year there. I have seen several in my garden throughout the year (2007), where they have been feeding voraciously on aphids, themselves feeding from elder and runner beans, so I was very pleased to have them.
This species has been in the UK since 2004 and has spread up to the Midlands already - no measurable decrease in native species has been reported as yet.

The numbers of individuals tends to peak in late autumn and on aphid infested trees, such as lime, the numbers of Harlequin ladybirds can be quite staggering, certainly in the hundreds, and usually feeding alongside other ladybird species. On such trees you can usually find larvae, pupae and adults at the same moment. The pupal stage of development can be surprisingly short at this time of the year so they can develop from larva to adult in just about a week.

I still think this is a gorgeous species and a great controller of aphids."

Thanks to Duncan, Gillian and Stuart for this update,

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