February 11th 2014

Harlequin Ladybirds

Harlequin Ladybirds,  in a small hibernating group in the house.

Harlequin Ladybird , showing their definitive brown legs.

Harlequin Ladybird , showing their definitive brown legs.

This little group of Harlequin Ladybirds (so named because of their very varied patterns, from 0 to 22 spots, and different colours) remind me of wind-up toys.  They were introduced by farmers to Europe and North America as a pest control for aphids, and are now spreading widely through the country. They communicate using pheromones, enabling them to aggregate into (often large) groups, when hibernating in crevices inside buildings.  Harlequins are more toxic than native species and are voracious predators, not just on aphids but on native Ladybirds, butterfly eggs, caterpillars etc.This makes them a real threat to a range of insects. They are bigger than native Ladybirds, but the definitive way of identifying them is by their brown legs and undersides. If you want to help identify their spread and impact on native species, go to http://www.ladybird-survey.org . In their favour, they are being studied as a possible source of anti-bacterial medicines! Conditions: Sun, snow and rain. Temperature: Max 6- Min2c.  Alongside the devastation of the floods, the recent storms have revealed some wonderful new archaeology, including 4,000 year old (Bronze Age) footprints on a beach in The Gower Peninsular and 10,000 year old remains of a forest, once used by hunter-gatherers, on the coast at Newgale in Pembrokeshire. Even more unusual is the recently announced find, made last spring, of 800,000 year-old footsteps of a family group, on the beach at Happisburgh, North Norfolk, in mud revealed for a few days by heavy storms.  The only older human footprints known to date are in Africa. A long post today but now there’ll be a break- in the immortal words of Eccles: ‘Everyone’s got to be somewhere’ but for me, for a few days, it won’t be in the garden!

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