Species: Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis)

Family: Ladybirds (COCCINELLIDAE)

Category: Insects (Other)

Location: NW

A. Insects (Other)

More extensive information on insects can be found in a separate blog post.

B. Ladybirds (COCCINELLIDAE)

Ladybirds are popular aphid-eating beetles but are unpopular with predators because of their bitter taste. Avoid handling them as they secrete a foul-smelling liquid with a very persistent odour. They pass the Winter as dormant adults, and then are active from early Spring until late Autumn. There are 42 British species, whose patterns are variable. Eggs are mainly yellow or orange in colour, and laid in batches, taking 4-10 days to hatch depending on the temperature.

In folklore many rhymes connected with divination for future partners mention ladybirds. If a single girl tosses a ladybird into the air, it will fly away in the direction a future lover lives. It is very unlucky to kill a ladybird, but lucky if one lands on you. If you kill any beetle, it will pour with rain.

C. Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis)

The Harlequin Ladybird has a very varied appearance, both in its colour and in the number of spots different individuals have. They can be red, orange or even black, with black or red spots that number anything up to 19. They usually have orange on the underneath with orange legs. They are relatively large ladybirds.

This is an established species after it was introduced into Britain in 2004. It was introduced into Europe and North America from China, Russia and the far east where it is variously known as the Multi-coloured Asian Ladybird or the Asian Ladybird. This introduction was in order to control aphids.

It is a voracious predator and can strip plants of aphids far more quickly than other ladybird species can. It is thus a competitor to our native species. The Harlequin will also eat the eggs and larvae of other ladybirds.

Images

Harlequin Ladybird

The Harlequin Ladybird has a very varied appearance, both in its colour and in the number of spots different individuals have. They can be red, orange or even black, with black or red spots that number anything up to 19. They are relatively large ladybirds. Note the orange legs of the individual in this photograph.

Harlequin Ladybird

Note how the colouring of this adult Harlequin Ladybird is redder than the orange version shown above. Both are examples of the succinea form of this invasive insect.

(Photo credit: Stuart MA Ball.)

Harlequin Ladybird

Two different colour forms of the Harlequin Ladybird here copulating in May.

Harlequin Ladybird

The Harlequin Ladybird has a somewhat frightening larval form, here on a headstone in November.

Harlequin Ladybird

This Harlequin Ladybird larva was seen in early July 2022.

Harlequin Ladybird

The pupa of a Harlequin Ladybird, photographed here in August. The Harlequin Ladybird can lay eggs all year round, accounting for the threat it poses to our native species of ladybirds.

Harlequin Ladybird

This is the succinea variety of the Harlequin Ladybird.