England¿s native ladybirds have been decimated by a ¿cannibal killer¿ from East Asia, a new study warned. The notorious Harlequin (pictured), imported to help European farmers control pests, has been declared the fastest invading species

Harlequin ladybirds are wiping out UK’s two-spot beetles

England’s native ladybirds have been decimated by a ‘cannibal killer’ from East Asia, a new study warned.

The notorious Harlequin, imported to help European farmers control pests, has been declared the fastest invading species.

It arrived in Britain in 2004 – either by being blown over or in fruit and vegetables from Europe- and it has spread at a greater rate than grey squirrels, American mink, ring-necked parakeets and muntjac deer.

England¿s native ladybirds have been decimated by a ¿cannibal killer¿ from East Asia, a new study warned. The notorious Harlequin (pictured), imported to help European farmers control pests, has been declared the fastest invading species

England’s native ladybirds have been decimated by a ‘cannibal killer’ from East Asia, a new study warned. The notorious Harlequin (pictured), imported to help European farmers control pests, has been declared the fastest invading species

HARLEQUIN LADYBIRDS

The notorious Harlequin, imported to help European farmers control pests, has been declared the fastest invading species.

It arrived in Britain in 2004 either by being blown over or in fruit and vegetables from Europe and it has spread at a greater rate than grey squirrels, American mink, ring-necked parakeets and muntjac deer.

Over an 11 year period in which the Harlequin invaded England it accounted for up to 70 per cent of all the ladybirds recorded.

It is known to feed on 2-spot ladybirds, and it is feared this predation is an important driver of the changes observed.

The voracious Harlequin preys on other ladybirds and fears it would colonise the country have proved correct.

An Insect Conservation and Diversity study shows a dramatic fall in the numbers of a the 2-spot species, which is native to the UK, on lime trees.

Over an 11-year period in which the Harlequin invaded England it accounted for up to 70 per cent of all the ladybirds recorded.

It is known to feed on 2-spot ladybirds, and it is feared this predation is an important driver of the changes observed.

Co author Dr Peter Brown, of Anglia Ruskin University, said: ‘This long term field study shows just how numerous Harlequin ladybirds have become.

‘The 2-spot used to be one of our most abundant ladybird species but is now quite tricky to find.

‘The study shows clear changes in the ladybird community as a result of the Harlequin’s dominance.’

Harlequins arrived mainly by spread from mainland Europe, and it is now common throughout England and Wales.

Dr Brown and colleagues analysed four sites – two lime tree, one pine tree and a nettle – in East Anglia between 2006 and 2016 following the invasion and found, overall, it represented 41.5 percent of all ladybirds sampled.

The proportion of native ladybirds fell from 99.8 percent – 520 of 521 ladybirds at three sites – in 2006 to 30.7 percent or 383 of 1,248 at four sites in 2016.

The Harlequin dominated in the lime trees but not in the pine trees or nettles.

It was over three times more abundant than the second most common species, the seven spot ladybird.

Dr Brown said: ‘There are very few published long-term studies of ladybird communities in Europe, and even fewer that have encompassed the early invasion phase of a non-native species.

‘Our study shows a clear change in the ladybird community on lime trees over an 11-year period in which the Harlequin invaded England.’

Over an 11 year period in which the Harlequin (pictured) invaded England it accounted for up to 70 per cent of all the ladybirds recorded. It is known to feed on 2-spot ladybirds. Harlequins can be black with red spots or orange with black spots

Over an 11 year period in which the Harlequin (pictured) invaded England it accounted for up to 70 per cent of all the ladybirds recorded. It is known to feed on 2-spot ladybirds. Harlequins can be black with red spots or orange with black spots

He added: ‘It remains to be seen whether native species such as the 2-spot will continue to decline to extinction at these sites, and whether the invasive Harlequin will continue to increase.

‘At the least, the Harlequin is now one of the dominant species on deciduous trees in southern Britain, and there is no indication this situation will change in the short-medium term.’

Dr Brown urged research on the possible negative effects of the Harlequin on other insect groups, some of which may be rather subtle, such as competition for food.

The Harlequin has also been blamed for stings, bites and allergic reactions by preying on humans as they infest homes.

The ladybirds are increasingly finding their way into people’s houses and have even caused severe allergic reactions in some of their victims.

The insect is also known for staining curtains and surfaces with a foul-smelling yellow chemical.

Scientists fear the Harlequin could wipe out British ladybirds altogether after spreading rapidly.

They also spread a sexually transmitted fungal disease.

Posted on; DailyMail>>

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