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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 February 2008, 00:17 GMT
Killer ladybird seen in Scotland
Harlequin ladybird. (Pic: Francis Rowland)
Harlequin ladybird eat the eggs and young of moths and butterflies
A "deadly" ladybird that poses a threat to native insect species has been reported for the first time in Scotland, conservationists said.

Two sightings of the Harlequin, originally from eastern Asia, have been made in Perthshire and on Orkney.

But Buglife Scotland said the insect may have also arrived in the Highlands and other parts of Scotland.

It is believed tourists may have unwittingly brought it north after it arrived in England three years ago.

When the Harlequin first arrived, experts in England warned some of the UK's rarer ladybird species could disappear within 10 years.

There are cases where tens of thousands of ladybirds have been found in people's homes
Craig Macadam
Buglife Scotland

Buglife Scotland said the first Scottish sighting was made in a house near Loch Tummel, Perthshire, last October.

The most recent record was made in January this year on Orkney.

Conservation officer Craig Macadam said the predator may have arrived with tourists and produce from England and abroad.

He said: "It has a voracious appetite and they favour aphids, but once they've eaten them they turn to other things including the young of our own ladybirds and the eggs and caterpillars of moths and butterflies."

Mr Macadam added: "Harlequin ladybirds are often found hibernating in large numbers in buildings during autumn and winter.

"There are cases where tens of thousands of ladybirds have been found in people's homes."

Government action

He could not rule out the possibility the insect had arrived elsewhere, including the Highlands.

Harlequins' appetite for aphids and other invertebrates saw it introduced to other countries as a biological pest control on crops.

Buglife said it had spread rapidly across north-western Europe and arrived in Britain in 2004.

The organisation has called for government action to exterminate the ladybird, join US research efforts to find a long-term solution to the problem and work with the European Union to secure better bio-security for the continent.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Bugslife spokesman on the "killer' ladybird



SEE ALSO
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10 Oct 07 |  Shropshire

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