One of the things I get the most questions about is Harlequin Ladybirds, so I thought I would dedicate this blog to them - how to identify them, why they are a problem, what to do with them if you find them in your garden and how to help our native ladybirds.
"Hi Jon, it was good to talk to you on the phone about Harlequin ladybirds and as suggested here is a picture of what I have found in my back garden (there are lots of them), so hopefully you can confirm if you think they are harlequins. When we spoke I had seen the larvae as well with the red flashes on their backs, but of course now that I am armed with a camera I cannot find any" Gareth by phone and email.
Thanks for the message and it certainly looks like a Harlequin Ladybird to me and when we spoke on the phone your description of the larvae was spot on as well. This image of a Harlequin Ladybird Larvae may help you to identify the larvae in the future, if you spot any more, but your description was spot on with the 2 orange stripes. Harlequin ladybirds vary enormously in appearance, which can make them difficult to tell apart from our native ladybirds. Harlequins are larger than our native ladybirds and can be up to 1cm in length - if a ladybird is less than 5mm then it is NOT a harlequin. The 2 most common colourings for Harlequins are orange with 21 black spots or black with two red spots - not to be confused with the melanic form of the 2-spot ladybird, which we supply, which is black with four or six red spots! The larvae are much larger as well reaching up to about 1cm in length, have two orange stripes and are spikey. The only native ladybird which is similar in size to a Harlequin Ladybird is the 7-spot Ladybird, but only the 7 spot ladybird has exactly 7 spots! In summary, Harlequin Ladybirds can be red, orange or black and will have between 0 - 21 spot. It will also have brown legs.
The Harlequin is becoming a problem because of its size, its voracious appetite (including beneficial insects) and its ability to breed throughout the spring, summer and autumn. The Harlequin Ladybird was introduced from Asia to North America in the 1980s to control aphids in crops and quickly spread across the United States. It was then introduced into Europe to control aphids in the same way before arriving in Britain in 2004 - possibly blown over by strong winds. Like other ladybirds, the Harlequin eats aphids and this was the reason why it was introduced into food crops, BUT unlike other ladybirds, once the aphids have run out it will then start feeding on the eggs of caterpillars, moths and butterflies PLUS it will even attack the eggs and larvae of our NATIVE ladybirds. The main reason Harlequin ladybirds pose a threat to our native ladybirds is that they can easily out-compete our native ladybirds for food and then once that food runs out they will eat our ladybirds as well. The Harlequin Ladybird is here to stay and with no means of controlling harlequin ladybirds, without harming our native ladybirds it is important to encourage our NATIVE ladybirds - we supply NATIVE Adalia Bipunctata Ladybirds ready for release in the garden.
We supply Native Adalia bipunctata Ladybirds between May and August. Harlequin ladybirds are here to stay and while there is a lot of food about i.e. aphids releasing our native ladybirds into your garden will help boost their numbers. We supply BOTH adults & ladybird larvae ready for release in your garden - we ONLY supply NATIVE BRITISH Adalia bipunctata ladybirds. Releasing ladybirds will increase their numbers & help control the aphids in your garden - each ladybird will eat 5000 aphids. The ladybirds will then quickly breed to produce larvae, which will also eat aphids.
- Adult Ladybirds - We supply 25 adult ladybirds ready for release onto aphid infected plants or dotted around the garden. Once released, they will feed on insect pests i.e. aphids before breeding and producing the next generation. Pack of 25 only £15.99 or buy 50 for £27.98 saving £4.00 or buy 100 for £50.96 saving £5.00.
- Ladybird larvae - Ladybird larvae are unable to fly, so they are ideal for releasing onto heavily infected plants, as they will stay put feeding on aphids before pupating. Packs of 50 for £12.75.
- Ladybird Larvae in release bags - Our cotton release bags are the easy way to introduce ladybird larvae into conifers, trees and hedges. Use them to control aphids in hard to reach places. 100 larvae with 1 cotton release bag only £17.50.
To find out more about our Ladybirds - CLICK HERE