There are many types of ladybird in the U.K. but quite recently, a new variety was introduced that has the potential to jeopardise the others. See the link on the right for more on this.
The Harlequin ladybird is found naturally in the Far East, including Japan and Korea. It was introduced into several European countries as a predator of pest insects such as aphids, in greenhouses. However it was soon found living ‘wild’ in Belgium in 2001, in Germany in 2003, and in the UK in 2005. Within the UK, it was first reported in the London area, but is now rapidly spreading north and west. At present it appears likely that the Harlequin ladybird will become widely established in the UK.
Numbers of large ladybirds active on the outside of buildings, and sometimes entering buildings, may cause concern to residents. The peak of this autumn activity is restricted to a few weeks only, but once inside wandering ladybirds may occur on mild days throughout the winter. When disturbed, the beetles produce a foul smelling liquid, which may also stain fabrics etc. They do no damage to the building itself.
Being more vigorous than our native ladybird species, there are concerns that it may have a negative impact on their numbers.
A fairly large (7-10mm) oval beetle, almost black but with a distinct pale band across the front of the wing-cases. The larvae are white after first hatching, but turn brown and are covered with tufts of bristly hair. They grow to 10-12mm long and occasionally tunnel into soft wood to pupate. The life cycle takes about three months.
Both beetle and larvae are scavengers, feeding on scraps of food – especially ham, bacon or cheese, or on dead mice or birds. They often enter houses from old birds’ nests.
One of a family called the Dermestid beetles, meaning “skin eaters”. Related species include the dark-brown Leather Beetle and the very similar Dermestes haemorrhoidalis, which perhaps not surprisingly has no English name.