As winter approaches, households around the UK will be invaded by a sticky and foul-smelling invader. Harlequin ladybirds first arrived in Britain from Asia in the summer of 2004 and quickly spread across England and into Wales. They have been spotted as far north as the Orkney Islands. Now scientists say their numbers across the country have dramatically escalated.
The mini-beasts, which push themselves through household cracks as the weather turns cold, emit a yellow chemical when disturbed that stains walls and furnishings. Called ‘reflex blood’ it is packed full of chemicals that give off a bad odour. There are 46 species of ladybird (Coccinellidae) resident in Britain, but the aggressive Harlequin threatens many of them. Larger and spottier than native species they feed on other ladybird lava and caterpillars. A single female can lay over a thousand eggs.
Scientists at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) are so concerned that they have launched the UK Ladybird Survey to track the invasion. Ladybird expert Dr Helen Roy from CEH said: ‘Their numbers are huge, particularly in the South East. They have spread more quickly than the grey squirrel ever did.’ They have asked homeowners who spot the species to email their pictures to the Harlequin Ladybird Survey website. Those with smartphones can text LADYBIRD to 83040 to receive a link to upload their photos from their mobile. Harlequins do look similar to the native seven-spot ladybird, but only harlequins and the smaller native two-spot ladybird tend to shelter indoors in winter.
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