October in Ireland conjures up thoughts of autumnal leaves, crisp air and crunchy sounds. Feeling relaxed? Now imagine a swarm of beetles invading this perfect picture! STD carrying, Harlequin Ladybirds are back, and this non-native species is a major threat to our native ladybirds and ecosystem.
The harlequin ladybird, Harmonia axyridis, originates from Asia. It is also known as the Halloween ladybird. It is larger than our native ladybird and has between 0 -21 spots. Their different shapes and sizes make them hard to identify.
What harm do Harlequin Ladybird’s cause?
Research has shown that Harlequin Ladybirds contribute to a reduction in biodiversity by directly competing with other invertebrates for food and habitats. Harlequins eat the eggs of native ladybirds, as well as moths, aphids, eggs and larvae of butterflies and other scale insects.
They also carry a fungus disease called Laboulbeniales, which causes yellow finger-esque growths and is passed on through mating. Thankfully it is harmless to humans and pets, but not to other insects, centipedes, millipedes, spiders and crustaceans.
If disturbed during hibernation, and unable to find any other food source, they may bite a human. This will cause a slight sting and leave a small bump. Only a few numbers of cases have resulted in severe allergic reactions.
That’s not all, they can even stain your furniture! As a defence mechanism, ladybird species release a yellow fluid (reflex blood) which has a strong acid like smell.
How can you help?
Submit your sightings here: http://www.biology.ie/home.php?m=ladybirds2
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