Harlequin ladybird

Issued by: The Northern Ireland Environment Agency and CEDaR – September 2016 update

Reason for issue: A population of Harlequin ladybirds has been reported in Northern Ireland in more than one Belfast park. Adult, 3rd and 4th instar larvae and pupae have all been verified, therefore breeding is certain to be taking place, recorded for the first time in Northern Ireland.

  • Please report any Northern Irish sightings to the CEDaR Invasive Alien Species Online Recording Page
  • Management actions taken to date: The specimens were removed from the sitesand preserved for reference.Further updates to come, samples being laboratory analysed.

Issued by: Invasive Species Ireland and the National Biodiversity Data Centre

Reason for issue: Two specimens of the harlequin ladybird identified in the Republic of Ireland during November 2010.

What can you do?:

  • Remember that it is against the law to release harlequin ladybird in Ireland
  • Do not import, sell or buy harlequin ladybird
  • Check imported flowers, fruit and vegetables for the ladybird
  • Please report all sightings to the Alien Watch Page of this website or email sightings@invasivespeciesireland.com. Please supply the date of sighting, location name, location description e.g. in house, and your contact details.

Invasive status: Harlequin Ladybird was listed as a most unwanted potential invader in the Invasive Species Ireland 2007 risk assessment.

Summary of potential impacts: May cause the decline or extinction of Ireland’s native ladybird species. May cause a reduction in biodiversity as the Harlequin Ladybird is known to compete directly with other invertebrates for resources and by predation on small invertebrates including ladybirds, eggs and larvae of butterflies and moths and on aphids and other scale insects. They are an indirect pest of orchard crops which can affect the fruit quality and they can affect the taste of wine as they are difficult to remove from the clusters of grapes prior to harvest. In autumn/winter they tend to swarm and form large aggregations in buildings and are considered a nuisance.

Species description: Harlequin ladybirds are highly variable in colour (yellow to orange to black) and have a wide variation in number of spots (0-20). Some of the main features that distinguish it from Ireland’s 15 native species are its:

  • larger size of 6-8mm long
  • more domed shape than the native species
  • usually reddish to brown legs
  • can have a distinctive ‘M’ or ‘W’ on the protonum (back of the head)

Download the ID sheet for this species.

The two specimens found in Ireland were both of the same variety Harmonia axyridis var. spectabilis which is black with four red spots (see images). This variety looks similar to but is much larger than, the black with red spots form of the native Two-spot Ladybird (Adalia 2-punctata).

Where and when recorded: There have been two sightings of the harlequin ladybird in Ireland during November. The first sighing was reported by a member of the public from a house in Ashford, Co. Wicklow on 04 November 2010. The second sighting was also reported by a member of the public when a single specimen was captured entering a house in Cork City on 11 November 2010.

Has the species been recorded in Ireland/Northern Ireland before? Yes, there were two confirmed records from Northern Ireland in 2007 and 2009. The first of these sighting was in a packet of celery hearts while the second was from a house in Co. Down. No wild breeding population has been identified in Ireland to date.

Has the record/s been verified? Yes, all sightings have been verified by Roy Anderson.

Introduction status: Casual occurrence.  This species is not thought to be established in Ireland.

Frequency: Rare

Is there a reference specimen?: Two specimens have been preserved. One has been submitted to the Natural History Museum, Dublin. The second specimen is held by the National Biodiversity Data Centre, Waterford.

Pathway of introduction: it is unclear how the Harlequin Ladybirds arrived into the Republic of Ireland. It may have been as ‘hitch-hikers’ on imported produce from other infested areas or bought as a biological control agent for other invertebrate species. They can also fly over long distances.

Management actions taken to date: The specimens were removed from the houses and preserved for reference.


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