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Everything you need to know about the ladybird invasion

PUBLISHED: 12:00 07 October 2018 | UPDATED: 09:32 09 October 2018

A previous swarm of hibernating Harlequin Ladybirds. The creatures have returned to Kelsale Church this year. Picture: CHARLES CUTHBERT

A previous swarm of hibernating Harlequin Ladybirds. The creatures have returned to Kelsale Church this year. Picture: CHARLES CUTHBERT

Charles Cuthbert

Many more people across Suffolk and north Essex have seen their homes invaded by swarms of ladybirds. So what are the facts you need to know about these creatures?

A swarm of ladybirds in Waldringfield. Picture: ANNMARIE GOODWINA swarm of ladybirds in Waldringfield. Picture: ANNMARIE GOODWIN

Dozens of Twitter and Facebook users have been posting following our earlier report about the Harlequin Ladybirds, to say that large numbers are arriving in their homes and other buildings, including churches.

A collection of ladybirds might be called a “loveliness” - but many people find the arrival of huge numbers of the creatures anything but lovely!

Charles Cuthbert, a Suffolk naturalist and RSPB Minsmere wildlife guide, said: “This is the time of year when these ladybirds begin to swarm in search of hibernation sites, usually in a south-facing place in a recess around a window or doorway. They are currently gathering around my house in Kelsale, but the biggest number locally are in the village church as usual.”

Mr Cuthbert added: “The ladybirds may be a nuisance, but do not pose any real problems in my experience. The best way to remove them is to sweep them away, I would not recommend any use of pesticides because they can be damaging to all wildlife.”

On Twitter, Kirsty Cracknell said: “St John’s Church in Saxmundham has dozens and dozens in the porch. They are all on the ceiling and so many flying around. I’ve never seen so many ladybirds in one place.” Vivienne Harley also had numbers of ladybirds at her home in Saxmundham.

Patricia Mattinson, of Chediston, just outside Halesworth, said: “ I made the mistake of opening a window just a tad yesterday - came back five minutes later to find 20-plus in the room.”

Lou Hammond said on the Ipswich Star’s Facebook page: “There were loads of them in my garden in Chantry, Ipswich.”

And Pamela Leathley-Hewitt commented: “I had swarms of them on my front door and windows in Stowmarket.”

On the EADT’s Facebook page, Alica Kemp from Bury St Edmunds said: “I have had loads in the flat over the past couple of days. Every time I open the window, they swarm into the room. I’ve only just moved here so I thought it was just the flat.”

Harlequin Ladybirds Facts

What are Harlequin Ladybirds? This is a new ladybird species to the UK, described by the Harlequin Ladybird Survey as “the most invasive ladybird on Earth.” It originates from eastern Asia.

How can you recognise them? They can be hard to recognise from the markings, because they have many different colours and markings. The most common types in the UK are black with two or four red or orange spots, or orange with up to 21 black spots. The size is a pointer, as they are large - about a quarter of an inch or 7-8mm.

When did they arrive in the UK? The first ladybirds of this species arrived in the UK in summer 2004, after spreading from North America to Europe.

Are they a threat to other ladybirds? Yes, it has been warned that the Harlequin ladybirds could endanger the future of many of the UK’s 46 ladybird species. This is because they can out-compete other ladybirds for food.

What do they eat? The ladybirds’ main food is aphids, but they also eat many other foods including other ladybirds and small insects. When feeding up for the winter, they also damage soft fruit, such as pears and grapes in wineries, by sucking the juice from them.

Do they bite? If hibernating ladybirds are woken up when central heating warms the house, they may bite people because they are looking for something to eat. This usually just causes a slight sting and bump, but there are a few documented cases of people having a severe allergic reaction.

What other damage do they cause? Many ladybird species can exude a yellow fluid, known as reflux blood, which can leave stains on soft furnishings and gives off an acid smell.

The Harlequin Ladybird Survey is asking people to contact them with sightings so they can track the spread of the creatures. See their web page, www.harlequin-survey.org.

READ MORE - Ladybird invasion - have you spotted swarms of the creatures?

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