For the third time in as many weeks a Harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) has appeared as if from nowhere in my kitchen. They like to find somewhere cosy to hibernate the winter away so I’m sure a warm spot near my gas boiler would suit them very well and normally I wouldn’t mind but this is the most invasive ladybird on earth.
The voracious little Harlequin originated in Asia but was introduced firstly to North America and later to Europe to control aphids. Though it only arrived in Britain in 2004 – perhaps blown across the Channel, or it may have hitched a ride on a vehicle – it has already spread throughout half these isles. The problem is that the Harlequin doesn’t just eat aphids; not only does it compete with native ladybirds for food but it also devours their eggs and larvae, as well as the eggs and caterpillars of butterflies and moths. It may look cute but it has the devastating potential to wipe out all 26 resident species of ladybird.
This is one time when I really wish this ladybird would fly away home!