Saturday, 13 October 2007

Invasion of the Ladybirds

Every afternoon this week we have been plagued by ladybirds, For years, apart from the occasional two spot and yellow larva, we have only seen the familiar seven spotted variety. The newcomers have 18 spots, although some are predominantly black with red patches.

The invaders have landed on the walls of the house in their hundreds, before crawling upwards - presumably mainly into the roof space. They have infiltrated washing on the line, and mated brazenly across the front door.

Clusters have appeared in the corners of the bathroom. They appear to have hunkered down for the winter, but when one baths and the temperature rises, they begin to crawl around the ceiling and wing it across from one wall to another. It's disturbing; all those little bugs perceived from the corner of one's eye, as if one is suffering from DTs.

I am fond of ladybirds, and was happy to let them hibernate indoors, until I discovered that these are the Harlequin Ladybird. They were introduced to North America from Asia in the 1970s as an "environmentally friendly" aphid control. Within a few years they had driven out other ladybirds and aphid-eating insects. They were first spotted in Britain three years ago, and have been spreading from the south-east into the rest of the country. Numbers have also been rising in France, Belgium and Holland. Naturalists fear that they may drive our 46 native species into extinction.

I'm not so sure I want to share my bathroom with them now.

You'd think that, with increasing understanding of the frail balance of nature and the impact of global warming, Mankind in general and the Americans in particular would have learned to stop introducing species where they don't belong. Our continuing inability to predict the consequences of mucking about with ecosystems seems to support the case for a moratorium on genetic modification in agriculture.

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