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Public interest charts the impact of the most invasive ladybird on earth

7 February 2008

Harlequin succinea: Photographer - Mike MajerusThe Harlequin Ladybird has gone from a biological control agent* to potentially the “most invasive ladybird on earth”, scientists from across Europe announced today through the publication of a special issue of the journal BioControl. 

Contained within the special issue is evidence from the UK Harlequin Ladybird Survey (a collaborative project between the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Cambridge University and Anglia Ruskin University) which demonstrates how the Harlequin has spread rapidly and its numbers have soared across the UK since first arriving in the South East of England in 2004.    Through a pioneering on-line recording system members of the public have registered their sightings with photos to give reliable data. Over 20,000 records of Harlequin Ladybirds, many of multiple individuals, have been logged since the survey was launched in March 2005. 

Dr Helen Roy from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology who works on the UK Harlequin Ladybird Survey, and was one of the two co-editors of the special issue, commented:

“The Harlequin Ladybird is an extremely unwelcome addition to the UK but through this on-line survey we have been able to track its movements and are now beginning to use the survey to understand more complex aspects of the ecology of the Harlequin Ladybird within the UK. This book is not the end of our research, and the public can still contribute through the website

Welcoming the new study, Joan Ruddock, Minister for Climate Change and Biodiversity said:

“I am pleased that our funding has helped to establish the UK Harlequin Ladybird Survey as a good example for recording the distribution for non-native species. This research is important because it demonstrates how quickly an invasive species can spread and become established. I was delighted by the great public response to the survey, showing the important role the public have to play in helping to conserve wildlife.”

* Harlequin Ladybirds have been used as a Biocontrol agent in various countries of mainland Europe but have never been used for this purpose in the UK

Additional Information

The UK Harlequin Ladybird Survey was established by CEH, Cambridge University and Anglia Ruskin University through the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Trust and with start-up funding from Defra. 

The Special Issue “From Biological Control to Invasion: the Ladybird Harmonia axyridis as a Model Species” is produced by the academic publisher Springer in association with the scientific journal BioControl (edited by Helen Roy, CEH, UK and Eric Wajnberg, INRA, France). The book represents the collaborative effort of more than 50 scientists from Europe and USA and considers many aspects of the biology of this invasive alien species from distribution and abundance across Europe to potential impacts and possibilities for control.

Media enquiries about this work should be directed to the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology Press office.

Press coverage

The Times - 7 February 2008 Ladybird knocks spots off squirrel's migration

The Telegraph - 6 February 2008 Asian harlequin ladybird now dominant species

New Scientist Online - 6 February 2008 Top invasive species fingered by European list


Press release (issued by the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Trust)

Harlequin Ladybird Survey


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