Harlequin Ladybird Harmonia axyridis
The common name of this species Harlequin Ladybird or Multicoloured Asian Ladybird tells it all. The animal does not originate from Britain, but comes to us from Asia and secondly it is highly variable. Both aspects are correct. The animal was brought into Europe (in Belgium, the Netherlands and Northern Germany) to be a biological killer of plant lice. Of course it got into the outside world. Conditions in Western Europe apparently were excellent, so the animal rapidly expended its area. First seen in the wild in Belgium in 2001. Germany followed in 2003. In 2004 the first were seen wild in both the Netherlands and France. In 2005 the first have been found in England. This species colonizes Europe very rapidly indeed. Some people fear that it may be a thread to our own Lady Beetles. The Harlequin Ladybird has extremely hungry larvae, which will happily eat other Ladybird larvae when plant louse is not available. This behavior is also common among our own species. The fact is that the larvae of the Asian species are much bigger and stronger than the larvae of our own. The adult beetles are very variable. Sometimes they are very similar to the 10-spot Ladybird: red with black dots. But it may also be entirely black with two or four white, yellow or red variable dots. If this is the case it is very similar to either the 2-spot Ladybird or the Pine Ladybird. Usually a good mark is the white on the neck shield. It is larger than in our species and reaches the edges completely. Another good characteristic is size: the Harlequin Ladybird usually is bigger (7 to 8 mm) than our native species. One of the best characteristics is the dench in the shields near the backside of the animal. In the spring of 2006 the first larva appeared in our garden. In the autumn of the same year some 15 adults were seen at the same time, so the species got a good grip on our garden indeed!
In the bottom pictute is an infested Harlequin Ladybird. It had a fungus growing on the shields (near the back side of the body). This fungus is most probably Hesperomyces virescens. It is found on various Ladybird species, but in Western Europe and the USA the Harlequin Ladybird is frequently infested (up to 80%!). Transmission of the virus takes place during mating in summer and during hibernation in winter. The Harlequin Ladybird usually overwinters in huge groups clustered together, so it is easy for the fungus to spread itself. It is not fully understood yet what consequences infestation has. Some experiments suggest that infested ladybirds are shorter lived than non-infested animals.
This species is also known as Asian Lady Beetle, Japanese Ladybug, Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle, Halloween Lady Beetle, Pumpkin Ladybird, Multicoloured Asian Ladybird and Many-named Ladybird.