I was at Killerton yesterday for a meeting and spotted a dozen or so ladybirds running around on the window frame in our meeting room. This is not just any ladybird it is the Harlequin ladybird Harmonia axyridis – the most invasive ladybird species on earth.
The harlequin ladybird was introduced to North America in 1988, where it is now the most widespread ladybird species on the continent. It has already invaded much of northwestern Europe, and arrived in Britain in summer 2004. There are originally from Asia.
The harlequin is a large ladybird which occurs in a large number of colour forms and patterns. The following four photographs show four different colour/pattern forms taken at Killerton yesterday.
Harlequins are aggressive predators of other insects such as aphids but they also eat other species of ladybird and as a result there are concerns that they will have an impact on our native species. You can find out more about the spread of harlequins in the the UK and how to identify them here.
If you want to know about our native ladybirds see here.