Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Invading ladybirds (or ladybugs) breed up ecological storm for UK species

What they call “ladybirds” appear to be what Americans call “ladybugs,” or so I glean from David Adam in the Guardian (UK): Millions of very hungry ladybirds are poised to create ecological havoc for hundreds of Britain's native species, scientists warn today. Experts said the anticipated warm summer would provide the perfect conditions for the Asian harlequin ladybird to breed and prepare for a springtime assault. "They are creating a huge genetic stock ready for next year," said Helen Roy, a scientist with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

The insect, a voracious predator, has spread across the UK since its arrival from continental Europe in 2004. The bugs have been spotted as far north as Orkney, though they remain strongest in south-east England, where they have overrun many of London's parks. "We believe that the negative impacts of the harlequin on Britain will be far-reaching and disruptive, with the potential to affect over a thousand of our native species," she said. "It's a big and voracious predator, it will eat lots of different insects, soft fruit and all kinds of things."

Unlike British ladybirds, such as the most common seven-spot, the harlequin does not need a cold winter for adults to reach sexual maturity, and so be able to breed. "That gives them a massive advantage," Roy said…

Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis), picture taken in Oakland, California. Shot by Calibas, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0, Attribution ShareAlike 2.5, Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 and Attribution ShareAlike 1.0 License

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