The harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) was first recorded in the UK in October 2004*. A new paper, published today in Ecological Entomology, looks at how the arrival of the Harlequin prompted a large scale citizen science project, encouraging people across Britain to track its spread.
The paper was written by Dr Helen Roy of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and Dr Peter Brown from Anglia Ruskin University. Both help run the UK Ladybird Survey.
A decade after its arrival, tens of thousands of people have provided records of the harlequin and other species of ladybirds, creating an invaluable dataset for large-scale and long-term research. The methods used, and lessons learned, have also been vital to the establishment of the UK early warning alert system for other invasive species.
The dataset has been used to show declines in the distribution of seven (of eight assessed) native species of ladybird, after the arrival of the harlequin. Research in both the laboratory and the field has contributed greatly to increased understanding of ecological invasion processes.
Dr Helen Roy, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and lead author of the review paper said, “We hope that people will continue to be part of the UK Ladybird Survey as we still have so much to learn about the harlequin ladybird and its interactions with other species. We would also like to increase our understanding of the resilience of the networks of species with which the harlequin ladybird intermingles.
"Our free smartphone app, iRecord Ladybirds, ensures that it is extremely easy to record sightings of all ladybirds.”
You can read more about the history of research on the harlequin ladybird in this blog post by Dr Helen Roy.
*Harmonia axyridis was first recorded in Britain in 2004. Two subsequent earlier records were received from 2003.
Full paper reference: Helen E Roy and Peter M J Brown. Ten years of invasion: Harmonia axyridis (Pallas) (Coleoptera: Coccinelllidae) in Britain. 2015. Ecological Entomology. doi: 10.1111/een.12203