A Harlequin Ladybird

01st May 2012
There are 46 species of ladybird (Coccinellidae) resident in Britain, many instantly recognisable, even to those with little knowledge of our insect life. I did know that the Harlequin Ladybird had appeared in the UK in 2004, but I wasn't confident that I could recognise it.

I was at Brandon Marsh Nature Reserve in Warwickshire and saw this one. I photographed it, primarily because virtually all I had been seeing recently was the very common 7-Spot (Coccinella septempunctata). This was obviously different. I looked it up when I got home and it is a Harlequin (Harmonia axyridis). 100 different Harlequin colour patterns have been recorded. Some specimens are reddish-orange with black dots, others black with red patches. They exist in three forms; succinea, spectabilis and conspicua. This is the succinea form.

Unlike most other ladybirds, the Harlequin does not stick to one type of food. Once it has finished feeding on aphids, it then turns its attention to other ladybird eggs and larvae and even the eggs and caterpillars of moths and butterflies. The main reason Harlequin ladybirds pose a threat to our native ladybirds, is that they have such voracious appetites that they easily out-compete native ladybirds for food.

Get more information and record your Harlequin Ladybird sightings at the Harlequin Ladybird Survey website.

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