Invasion of cannibal ladybirds carrying STIs wreaks havoc,” screams the Sun. Should we scoff at such sensationalism? Well, the red-tops are mostly correct. Except for the havoc bit.
There are plenty of ladybirds about this autumn and many are flying into our homes. Unlike our native letterbox-red ladybirds, these creatures are often orange or yellow and possessing many spots, or none.
These multi-hued, home-loving ladybirds are harlequins. This Asian species’ voracious appetite was deployed to control aphids on crops in the US in the 1980s. It soon spread to Europe, and arrived in Britain in 2004. The best way to distinguish it from native species is to look for white markings behind the harlequin’s head, and its brown – rather than black – legs.
Such harlequin happenings now occur every autumn, but numbers are greater this year after the UK’s glorious summer, according to the nation’s leading ladybird expert, Professor Helen Roy of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.
They may be a nuisance if someone doesn’t want hundreds in their bedroom – but they are not a human health concern