Harlequin Invasion

23rd April 2012
That’s a harlequin ladybird to be precise. Be careful what you ask for!
A few days later I was trying out a new lighting arm for close-up and macro work. At this time of year there aren’t too many insects around, so I was prepared to do a few test shots of nothing in particular in order to see how the gadget performed. There was an abundance of ladybirds around, some warm sun bringing them all out into the open. That would be fine then, I decided. Most of the ones I spotted (maybe a pun there) were of the seven spot variety (Coccinella septempunctata). One was a little different, but I managed to obtain one shot just before it disappeared into the thick vegetation. One to identify later then, I thought, not suspecting anything at this stage.
It didn’t take too long to find out that the unidentified ladybird was an unwanted Harlequin (Harmonia axyridis). Well I wish I’d seen it a few days earlier!

Harlequin Ladybird

The species is very variable – the colour ranges from yellow-orange to black and the number of spots between up to 22. While it can be confused with ‘normal’ ladybirds to the more casual observer, most variations are soon identified as the invader.
I say unwanted, as the Harlequin arrived in the United Kingdom in 2004 and is a predator of our native ladybirds (as well as other insects and larvae just as our ladybirds are). The Harlequin was introduced in North America in 1998 and is known as the Asian lady beetle or Japanese ladybug.

A seven spot ladybird for comparison

Larger images can be found in the Natural World gallery.

All text and images © Keith Rowley 2012

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