Page last updated at 12:19 GMT, Tuesday, 8 December 2009

'Killer' Harlequin ladybird is breeding in Scotland

Harlequin ladybird
Harlequin ladybird eat the eggs and young of moths and butterflies

An Asian ladybird which is believed to threaten native wildlife is now breeding in Scotland, a wildlife charity has confirmed.

RSPB Scotland said Harlequin ladybird larvae had been found near Kelvingrove Park in the west end of Glasgow.

The species was deliberately introduced to Western Europe in the 1980s as a biological pest control.

It is now though to be spreading fast and could threaten native insects, including other wild ladybirds.

Only a handful of sightings of the Harlequin ladybird have been recorded in Scotland.

But the discovery of larva (young insects) in Glasgow has concerned wildlife groups.

When people move animals and plants around the world and release them, resident wildlife sometimes cannot cope
Paul Walton
RSPB Scotland

Craig McAdam, conservation officer with the invertebrate conservation trust Buglife, said: "The possibility that there is now a breeding population of the Harlequin ladybird in Scotland is extremely worrying.

"Buglife believes that the issue of invasive species such as the Harlequin ladybird should be taken very seriously.

"The consequences of inaction on this issue are potentially highly damaging and costly to reverse."

Although similar to several native species, the most common form of Harlequins in the UK are either orange with 15 to 21 black spots or black with two to four red or orange spots. They are also slightly larger than domestic species.

The harlequin ladybird is native to Central Asia, but was introduced to both America and Europe as a form of aphid pest control in the 20th Century.

They are prolific breeders which are capable of dispersing over wide distances and have the potential to spread very quickly.

'New predator'

Harlequin feed on the larva of other ladybirds, butterfly eggs and other insects, potentially putting a number of British species at risk.

Paul Walton, head of habitats and species for RSPB Scotland, said: "When people move animals and plants around the world and release them, resident wildlife sometimes cannot cope.

"The Harlequin ladybird is a new predator introduced by people and might have a significant impact on other wild insects. Little can be done to slow its spread now, but we should see this as a wake-up call.

"We should all be vigilant to prevent the introduction of damaging species outside their natural range, particularly in lakes, rivers and islands."



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SEE ALSO
Killer ladybird seen in Scotland
21 Feb 08 |  Highlands and Islands
Call to track 'invader' ladybirds
10 Oct 07 |  Shropshire
'Predator' ladybird spreads wings
08 Nov 06 |  England

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