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Lottie

'Deadly Ladybird' Sighted in UK

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A ladybird which has already caused havoc to native insects in America has been spotted near a pub in Essex.

Harmonia axyridis posed a "deadly threat" to butterflies, lacewings and many other ladybirds, Dr Michael Majerus of Cambridge University said.

The ladybird is an Asian species which was introduced into North America 25 years ago to fight aphids.

It has since spread to Europe and last month was discovered in the gardens of the White Lion pub in Sible Hedingham.

It is critical to monitor this ladybird now, before it gets out of control and starts to annihilate our own British ladybirds

Dr Michael Majerus

The ladybird, which is also known as harlequin or the multi-coloured ladybug, was seen at the pub on 19 September and identified by Dr Majerus at the university's genetics department.

Several patterns

Dr Majerus said: "This is without doubt the ladybird I have least wanted to see here.

"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."

Harlequin ladybirds can damage soft fruit crops

The adult H. axyridis is about 7mm long, slightly larger than the seven-spot ladybird native to the UK. It comes in a range of colours and patterns.

The one found in Essex was black with two very bold red spots and two smaller red spots. But the bugs can also be orange in colour and checked in pattern.

H. axyridis is still sold in North America as a pest control. "It is now the commonest ladybird in North America," Dr Majerus told BBC News.

"It is outcompeting pretty much all of the aphid-feeding native American ladybirds which are going through anything from a slight to a very, very serious decline.

"And there are lacewing, hoverfly larvae and even butterflies that are suffering because this thing is eating all the food, and it is also eating as secondary food butterfly eggs, and other ladybirds and lacewing larvae."

Time to defend

Despite this unwelcome and well-publicised take-over, the harlequin ladybirds are also still being sold in continental Europe by biocontrol companies. The bug now roams across France, Belgium and Holland, with numbers soaring annually.

Harlequins also feed on fruit juices as they fuel up for the winter and fruit-growers are finding that they blemish many soft fruits, reducing the value of the crop.

Wineries report the bugs also taint the vintage because of their acrid defensive chemicals.

Dr Majerus believes there is still time to save the UK from a full invasion. He urges anyone who finds the insect to send it to him with precise details on when and where the ladybird was found.

"It is critical to monitor this ladybird now, before it gets out of control and starts to annihilate our own British ladybirds," he said.

Cambridge's Evolutionary Genetics Group can be contacted at info@gen.cam.ac.uk

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I hate that bloody Ladybug.

Watch out guys. May not seem like much but when you get up in the morning and your 4 bedroom house is covered in so many Ladybugs you can't actually SEE the house through the thick coats of them, you'll see what the problem is.

One morning i woke up at 10am and thought it was still night out until i discovered the windows were covered with so many they let no light IN.

AND, they nip.

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Posted (edited)

It never ceases to amaze me that man continues to try to fix mother nature. Kudzu was introduced to the US from Japan and now it's taking over everything. It's practically unstopable.

The Japanese Beetle was brought over to eat harmful insects and is now killing hundeds of thousands of pine trees.

Once you bring in a alien species into a different environment it reeks havoc and yet man continues to practice this. blink.gif

Edited by Michelle

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The ladybird is an Asian species which was introduced into North America 25 years ago to fight aphids.

It has since spread to Europe and last month was discovered in the gardens of the White Lion pub in Sible Hedingham.

It is critical to monitor this ladybird now, before it gets out of control and starts to annihilate our own British ladybirds

When humans *beep* with nature

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