Monday, February 11, 2008

Harlequin ladybird Harmonia axyridis succinea

I am an amateur naturalist attempting to discover all the life in my garden.

Early last October I found a pair of ladybirds sitting on some of the rust-afflicted Groundsel growing in my garden (at (0.2,1.9) - see here). Photo 1 shows a front view and photo 2 a view from the side which more easily permits my ladybird's 19-spots to be counted.

In seeking to identify my ladybird I turned first to my recently acquired copy of Ladybirds (Richmond Publishing, 1989) by Majerus (he of moth book fame) and Kearns. Despite the book containing beautiful colour illustrations of all 42 of the traditionally accepted British species of ladybird, I was surprised to find my 19-spot not included. All became clear however when a search of the internet bought me to David Element's webpage and I learnt that my ladybird is The Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridia), an invasive alien species that has only recently arrived in Britian (it was first recorded here in summer 2004).

In fact, H. axyridia comes in a variety of subspecies with different colouring and number of spots. My 19-spot variety is termed H. axyridia succinea.

Sadly, despite it's attrative appearance, it's a bad sign to find a Harlequin ladybird in my garden. The Harlequin is a voracious aphid predator, so varacious in fact that there is considerable concern about the damage the Harlequin may do to the native ladybird- and lacewing-species that also rely on aphids for their food. The Harlequin ladybird survey has been set up to monitor the invasion threat and people are encouraged to register sightings (I have).

To cheer us all up I'll leave us with the nursery rhyme, which, though I used to recite the first two lines as a child, I enjoyed learning from Majerus' and Kearns' book contains two extra lines

"Ladybird, ladybird fly away home,
Your house is on fire and your children all gone,
All except one, and her name is Anne,
And she crept under the porridge pan"


R2K said...

I think yours is better: )

R2K said...

Opps, to see the link you can press ctrl A and copy it.