Out for walk down my local street I noticed several Harlequin ladybirds on the leaves of a lime tree. I’d never seen this type of bug before so I went back home and looked for a recycled container to collect a few in to photograph.
Normally there are plenty of cleaned plastic food pots lying around left over from supermarket food, but today none, however a box of tea had just run out so used that instead, it was bigger than the pots meaning that it was ideal to fit the very large lime leaves in.
Unfortunately the first close-up photo showed a new species of hairy ladybird where the dusty bits of left over tea had coated the creature. So I had to wash the ladys, they tucked their legs in while under a gently running tap, then set them down on the leaf hoping they would clean the last bits of tea off themselves. They were all quietly sitting on the leaf so I went next door to change the camera flash setup and of course as soon as I left the room they saw their chance and scarpered.
I did eventually manage to round up all except one and get some shots before letting them go, still looking for the remaining one in the kitchen, not mentioned to my wife that they can actually bite humans if they are short of food.
Harlequin ladybirds are a new species to Britain and they are rapidly spreading north and west. This spread is shown on maps at The Harlequin Ladybird Survey where you can enter your own records of the ladybirds to help researchers monitor the situation. There is concern that this introduced ‘alien’ is causing harm to our native species.
One interesting and confusing aspect of harlequins is that they come in a wide variety of colour forms, some of our natives also have different forms but the harlequins are rather extreme, as shown in the photo, would you think that those two insects are the same species even though they look so different?