Swarms of ‘cannibalistic’ Harlequin ladybirds invading British homes

Giant swarms of ‘cannibalistic’ Harlequin ladybirds riddled with an STI are invading British homes and threaten to wipe out native species as they look for a place to hibernate

  • Hundreds of ladybirds have begun swarming around windows and doors in UK 
  • The bugs usually descend in the autumn, between September and October 
  • England’s native 2-spot ladybird species has been decimated by the Harlequins 
  • Some carry a sexually transmitted infection called Laboulbeniales, a fungus

Hundreds of cannibalistic ladybirds are swarming windows and doors as the weather starts to chill in Britain.

Thousands of people have reported swarms of the bugs, known as Harlequin ladybirds, entering their homes.  

Harlequin ladybirds are larger than other ladybird species which they prey on, including England’s native two-spot ladybirds which have been decimated by the creatures.

Some even carry a sexually transmitted disease called Laboulbeniales – an order of fungi which live off the exoskeletons of insects and cause yellow growths. 

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The ladybirds (pictured) tend to congregate around doors and windows as they look for warm spots to hibernate 

HARLEQUIN LADYBIRDS 

The notorious Harlequin, imported to help European farmers control pests, has been declared the fastest invading species.

It arrived in Britain in 2004 either by being blown over or in fruit and vegetables from Europe and it has spread at a greater rate than grey squirrels, American mink, ring-necked parakeets and muntjac deer.

Over an 11 year period in which the Harlequin invaded England it accounted for up to 70 per cent of all the ladybirds recorded.

It is known to feed on 2-spot ladybirds, and it is feared this predation is an important driver of the changes observed.

Although the fungus doesn’t pose a risk to humans, it can cause a bad smell in homes and even stain furniture. 

Hesperomyces virescens, the specific species of fungus that affects Harlequin ladybirds, is transmitted between ladybirds during mating and also by individuals that rub against each other when they gather in groups during winter. 

The bugs usually descend in the autumn, between September and October, and this year they have come out in force.

They tend to congregate around doors and windows as they look for a warm spot to hibernate in over the winter months.

The Harlequin ladybird first arrived in Britain in 2004 – possibly by being blown over or in fruit and vegetables from Europe- and it has spread at a greater rate than grey squirrels, American mink, ring-necked parakeets and muntjac deer. 

Scientists say the small spotted bugs are mostly harmless, and will leave of their own accord in spring if left alone. 


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It’s likely that the UK’s sweltering summer boosted the number of insects, Professor Helen Roy at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, who organises the UK Ladybird Survey, told the BBC.

She said reports of an infestation started in the north of England when the weather first turned cool.

‘It’s quite a wildlife spectacle to see,’ she said. 

The ladybirds are increasingly finding their way into people’s houses and have even caused severe allergic reactions in some of their victims. 

Scientists fear the Harlequin could wipe out British ladybirds altogether after spreading rapidly.

The public have been taking to Twitter to share photographs and videos of the flying insects in and around their homes

Codie McKenzie posted a video of the red bugs buzzing around her garden earlier this month.

Hundreds of ladybirds have come out in force this week as the weather starts to chill in Britain

She wrote: ‘What’s causing the swarms of ladybirds today!? I’ve never seen so many!’

Laura Kate Dale said: ‘Not sure what happened in the past hour, but suddenly there are like 30 ladybirds on my office window, with a tonne more flying around outside. 

‘More ladybirds in one place than I have ever seen before, had to close my window as so many were flying inside the house. Nap time over?’

Dean Nevin also posted a video, showing the bugs climbing the door frame and walls outside of his house in Warwick.

He said: ‘Warwick seems to be being taken over by Ladybirds. THEY ARE EVERYWHERE!’

Scientists say the small spotted bugs are mostly harmless, and will leave of their own accord in spring if left alone

Professor Helen Roy at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, who organises the UK Ladybird Survey, told the BBC that it is likely that the UK’s sweltering summer boosted the number of insects

The public have also taken to Twitter to share photographs and videos of the flying insects in and around their homes. (Stock photo)

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