An invasive species of ladybird has been found in Britain for the first time in an Essex garden.
Harlequin ladybird. Picture from Cambridge University (Deparment of Genetics).
The harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis
) also known as the multi-coloured ladybug is considered to be the 'most invasive ladybird on Earth'
. It was introduced to North America from Asia around 25 years ago as a biological control agent of aphids. However it has spread to become the most common ladybird there and the numbers are high enough to be threatening the native species whose numbers are falling as the harlequins consume their prey. Unbelievably, the ladybird is still sold on the continent by biological control agencies and has spread across France, Belgium and Holland with numbers increasing every year. This first record in Britain comes as no surprise but nevertheless will set alarm bells ringing. Dr Majerus of the genetics department at Cambridge University states 'this is without doubt the ladybird I have least wanted to see here. Given its proximity in Holland, I knew it was on its way, but I hoped that it wouldn't be so soon. Now many of our ladybirds will be in direct competition with this aggressively invasive species, and some will simply not cope'