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The Harlequin Ladybird: Unravelling the story of an alien invader

7pm. Great North Museum: Hancock.

The Harlequin Ladybird Harmonia axyridis was first recorded in England in 2004. It subsequently spread at approximately 100 km per year and by 2008 it had reached Scotland. People across Britain were invited to track the spread of the Harlequin and native ladybirds, through the on-line UK Ladybird Survey (www.ladybird-survey.org) launched in 2005. The response was inspirational. Tens of thousands of people reported their sightings and consequently the invasion of Britain by the Harlequin Ladybird is documented through their amazing observations.

There are a number of reasons why the harlequin ladybird is considered the ‘most invasive ladybird on Earth’. It is a threat to native biodiversity; the harlequin ladybird is voracious and known to be a predator of both pest and beneficial insects. It is also known to be escaping natural enemies, mainly parasites that interact with native ladybirds. It is a highly dispersive ladybird that can exploit a range of habitats and environmental conditions.

In this talk Richard Comont from the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology will explore some of the insights we have gained on the life history of the Harlequin Ladybird in Britain through the UK Ladybird Survey. He will also highlight the enormous value of engaging people in biological recording and particularly the important role that they can play in non-native species surveillance.