March 1, 2023
A Loveliness of Ladybirds?
The Harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) is a species of ladybird beetle that is native to Asia but has been introduced to many other regions of the world, including Europe, North America, and South America. It is a highly variable species in terms of color and pattern, with individuals ranging from yellow-orange to black, and with anywhere from zero to 22 spots on their elytra (wing covers). However, the most common color form in many regions is black with two or four red or orange spots.
On a recent visit to Habberley Valley by the Wyre Forest Study Group, Carol Taylor discovered a population of Harlequin ladybirds. These ladybirds are known to be voracious predators of aphids and other soft-bodied insects, and they are often used as biological control agents in agricultural settings. However, they can also be a nuisance when they invade buildings in large numbers in the fall, seeking shelter for the winter.
In some regions, the Harlequin ladybird has been identified as an invasive species, as it can outcompete and displace native ladybird species. Additionally, it has been found to carry a fungal pathogen that can be fatal to some native ladybird species. As a result, some efforts are being made to monitor and control populations of the Harlequin ladybird in certain areas.