Killer ladybird arrives

A KILLER ladybird spotted in Britain for the first earlier last month has today arrived in Ipswich.The Harlequin ladybird poses a deadly threat to a host of insects including butterflies, lacewings and many other ladybirds.

A KILLER ladybird spotted in Britain for the first earlier last month has today arrived in Ipswich.

The Harlequin ladybird poses a deadly threat to a host of insects including butterflies, lacewings and many other ladybirds.

It has been used in America and Europe to control aphids but when supplies of the pest run low it has been known to turn on other ladybirds and even bite humans.

Now it has been found in the Belmont Road area of Ipswich sparking fear among conservationists in the town.


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It was spotted by Greenways volunteer Robin Lee last week while the group carried out routine conservation work in woodland.

The group then waited for its identity to be confirmed and logged by experts before contacting The Evening Star.

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David Fincham of Greenways said: "As of last Thursday, this was the most northerly find in the country, with others being found in Kent and

Essex.

"The colouring of this species varies quite a bit apparently, this specimen is the melanic (dark) form."

The first sighting of the Harlequin ladybird occurred last month in Sible Hedingham in Essex.

It was identified by Dr Michael Majerus of the Genetics Department at Cambridge University who is now monitoring sightings of the species.

He said: "This is without doubt the ladybird I have least wanted to see.

"Given its proximity in Holland I knew it was on its way but I hoped it wouldn't be so soon.

"Now many of our ladybirds will be in direct competition with this aggressively invasive species and some will simply not cope."

The Harlequin ladybird can also be in conflict with humans and in America many houses have been inundated by hundreds of thousands of the beetles seeking places to pass the winter.

Harlequins also feed on fruit juices as they fuel up for the colder months and fruit-growers have found they blemish many soft fruits, reducing the value of the crop. They can even destroy vintage wine by feeding on grapes and damaging the crop with their acrid defensive chemicals.

In North America and continental Europe the numbers have become too great to control but Dr Majerus believes in Britain we may still have time.

He is urging anyone who finds the ladybird to send it to him with precise details on when and where it was found.

Although highly variable in its colour and pattern, none of the forms are easily mistaken for any British ladybirds.

Dr Majerus added: "It is critical to monitor this ladybird now, before it gets out of control and starts to annihilate our own British ladybirds."

The Department of Genetics and the University of Cambridge can be contacted on 01223 356372 or 01223 276190, alternatively e-mail, m.majerus@gen.cam.ac.uk.

Have you seen any unusual species in Suffolk? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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