EMER­GENCE OF THE EN­EMY WITHIN

Landscape (UK) - - In The Home -

Three species of lady­bird have re­cently colonised Britain. Two have done so al­most un­no­ticed: the Bry­ony lady­bird, which feeds on plant mat­ter, and the tiny and in­con­spic­u­ous Brown lady­bird. But the third species, the no­to­ri­ous Har­le­quin, has done so with far greater fan­fare. In the mid­dle of the open­ing decade of the 21st cen­tury, peo­ple be­gan to no­tice groups of large and of­ten very vari­able-look­ing lady­birds in their homes and gar­dens. Some were black with red spots, oth­ers or­ange or yel­low and some were red, lead­ing to the rea­son­able as­sump­tion that they were sev­eral dif­fer­ent species. Yet they were all just one: the now no­to­ri­ous Har­le­quin lady­bird. This species, orig­i­nally from Asia, was in­tro­duced to North Amer­ica in the 1980s to con­trol aphids, but soon spread out of con­trol. They took some time to reach west­ern Europe, prob­a­bly on im­ported plants, but in 2004, the first spec­i­mens were recorded in Britain. Since then, they have be­come very com­mon, tak­ing just a decade to spread through vir­tu­ally the whole of the UK main­land, and in 2012, they reached the north­ern­most ar­chi­pel­ago, Shet­land. As a vo­ra­cious preda­tor, of­ten feed­ing on other lady­bird species, they now pose a ma­jor threat to the UK’s na­tive lady­birds. They also feed on the eggs and cater­pil­lars of but­ter­flies and moths, and out-com­pete na­tive lady­birds for food. It is thought the re­cent de­cline of the once com­mon Two-spot lady­bird may be down to the Har­le­quin’s ar­rival.

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