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Harlequin Ladybird Declared UK’s ‘Fastest-Spreading Alien Species’

posted: 05/20/15
by: Danny Clemens
Ladybug (Harmonia axyridis) Swarm
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Despite their pleasant name, ladybirds (also known as ladybugs) are causing quite the headache in the United Kingdom.

In an interview with The Guardian, leading ecologist Dr. Helen Roy dubbed the ladybird the UK's "fastest-spreading alien species on record". In conjunction with the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Roy facilitates The Harlequin Ladybird Survey, which tracks the invasive species' movement throughout the United Kingdom.

In the past decade, the Harlequin has been blamed for declines in seven native species of ladybird across the country. According to the Survey's website, the Harliequin ladybird "has the potential to jeopardize many" of the remaining species of ladybird native to the UK.

The ladybird was originally introduced across Europe (though not in the United Kingdom) as a strategy to keep the growing aphid population in check. It was first discovered in the United Kingdom in 2003, and has been officially tracked since 2005.

Also known as the Multicolored Asian Ladybird and the Halloween Ladybird, the small creature's appearance can vary significantly, making identification difficult. Its wing case can be pale yellow, orange, red or black, and it can sport up to 21 spots.

The Harlequin Ladybird Survey relies on reports from citizens to track the ladybird's movement throughout the country. They recently launched a mobile app that allows nature enthusiasts to report sightings straight from their smartphone.

Learn more about ladybirds

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