No this is not a blog on immigration, but those concerned certainly came from foreign shores. I’m not sure whether it was legal either, since they did not have passports when they arrived. So who are the hundreds of thousands of Asian Ladies now residing in the UK?
Commonly know as Harlequins (Harmonia axyridis), because of their variety of looks, these are Asian ladybirds. They were brought to the UK in 2004 from East and Central Asia as a means of bio-control; they are the most invasive ladybirds on earth. Between 5.5 and 8.5mm long and in a variety of colours (including red, black and orange) they are voracious predators who eat aphids (among other things); so you might say they are the gardener’s friend. But the downside is that they are out-competing our native ladybirds for food and also eating their larvae and eggs. If they continue like this our native ladybirds, like this 7-spotted ladybird below might be confined to history.
Over the last 5-years 7 out of 8 of our native British ladybirds have been in significant decline, with the 2-spotted ladybird having decreased by 44% since the Asia Ladies arrived.
So how do we recognise these feisty ladies? Bigger than our native ladybird, their colour ranges from yellow-orange to black, and the number of spots between none and 22. They are rounder than their British counterparts. Here are a few examples I photographed yesterday at Flag Fen near Peterborough.
A single female can lay over a thousand eggs in her lifetime, so its not surprising that they are spreading across the British Isles.
Their pupa look like this…
So, what do you do when you see some? Well, its important to monitor them so ecologist know what is happening. You can help by taking part in the Harlequin Ladybird Survey
Keep your eyes peeled for Asian ladies, and report where you have seen them, but also see if you can find our native British ladybirds before it is too late!
- Where have all the ladybirds disappeared to this summer? (telegraph.co.uk)
- Ladybirds (ramblingratz.wordpress.com)