Harlequin Set to Wreak Havoc over Warm Summer

A team of scientists has warned that there will only be “one winner, 1000 losers” as the Harlequin ladybird continues its spread through the UK. Introduced to Holland to control aphid numbers there, the ladybird spread to the UK in 2004, carried on the wind across the English Channel or transported on fruit and flowers. Since its arrival it has spread around the UK: it has been found as far north as Orkney but is most prevalent in London and South East England.

Helen Roy, a member of the BES and a researcher at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, and a team of others are exhibiting on the dangers of the Harlequin at this week’s Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition. Dr Roy says of the Harlequin: ” “It’s a big and voracious predator, it will eat lots of different insects, soft fruit and all kinds of things.” Because of its varied diet, and because it does not need a cold winter to reach sexual maturity, the Harlequin has an advantage over other ladybirds. The scientists fear that the Harlequin will push out rivals through competition for food.

Various means are being considered to tackle this invasive species, including encouraging the transmission of a sexually transmitted mite, making some harlequins infertile.

Read more in today’s Guardian