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Last Updated: Tuesday June 30 2009 07:10 GMT

Ladybird threat to UK insects

Harlequin ladybirds

A foreign ladybird is threatening the survival of 1,000 species in the UK.

Experts are warning that the harlequin ladybird, which recently arrived from Europe, has spread to most parts of the UK and is preying on loads of insects.

But research also says UK insects could be saved as some bugs are learning to kill the invading harlequins.

To help that process along, scientists are thinking about releasing a bug that would stop the harlequins from having any more babies.

Harlequins originally came from Asia, but were released in Europe to control other insect species.

They were first spotted in the UK in Essex in 2004.

What do harlequins in Britain look like?
orange with between 15 and 20 spots
black with two orange or red spots
black with four orange or red spots
they all have a white plate with a big black M-shaped marking on it, just behind the head

Since then, they've spread throughout the country, to as far as the Orkney Islands.

They eat lots of other insects, but at the moment, not many animals or insects eat them.

But that's changing, as things like parasitic wasps are learning to kill the invaders.