Killer ladybirds are invading London and are threatening the Capital's insects and plants.
The large Multivariate Asian Ladybird - a native of Japan and Siberia - has been spotted in London, and has brought with it a new threat of terror to the Capital's ladybird population.
It is not known how the foreign ladybirds entered the country, but the illegal immigrants are thought to have arrived via intercontinental rail, or on imported fruit and flowers.
Many of the foreign colonies have been spotted in south west London - including the Chelsea, Lambeth, Northern Wandsworth and Southwark boroughs, with experts believing the Harmonia axyridis - to give the species it's Latin name - will spread further east along the Thames as it breeds.
London residents have been asked to keep guard and look out for the large aphid - roughly 6-8mm long. The ladybird can be identified by its white patches down the side of the fore-body, usually coloured red or orange with up to 19 black spots. It may sometimes be coloured black with two to eight red patches.
The public has been asked to send specimens or photographs of unusual specimens for identification to Michael Majerus - address given below.
The exotic ladybirds are a known menace to North American residents, entering houses during the autumn and reproducing in massive numbers. Native ladybirds and insects are edged out, either starved by competition or eaten by the in-comer.
In the longer term there is a chance that the ladybird will prosper in London. However entomologist Paul Mabbott, Co-ordinator for Surveys of Ladybirds in London and Essex, hopes European predators and diseases will keep the growing Asian ladybird population down. It may, however, be necessary to import parasitoids or bacterial treatments to deal with the situation.
- Michael Majerus, Dept of Genetics, University of Cambridge, CB2 3EH
- Ladybirds travel well by post if securely packed in a small, strong container such as a photographic film tube.