A Loveliness of Ladybirds is a fantastic collective noun and today I found one such Loveliness behind some dead foliage that I was clearing.
Having photographed them and covered them back up again, I have got my insect books out and tried to identify what sort of ladybird they are.
And I was a bit confused by how many different types of ladybirds there are and how much variation there is within each species. There is a 2 Spot Ladybird, a 7 Spot, a 10 Spot, a 14 Spot, a 22 Spot and a 24 Spot and, for example, it seems perfectly acceptable for the 2 Spot Ladybird to have up to 6 spots and the 10 Spot Ladybird to have as few as 6.
As well as that there is an Orange Ladybird, a Cream Spot, an Eyed Ladybird and many, many others. In fact Britain has 46 species of ladybird.
But, as I delved further, it became obvious that what I have here are Harlequin Ladybirds. These ladybirds were introduced into mainland Europe from Japan to tackle aphid pests and have spread at an alarming rate. They first arrived in the UK in 2004, maybe accidentally, maybe blown by strong winds. And whereas the Grey Squirrel took 100 years to spread across the country, the Harlequin Ladybird has taken 10, becoming Britain’s fastest ever invading species. It has 100 different colour and spot number and size combinations making it extremely variable and a bit difficult to identify but I’m fairly sure that this is what I have here.
They are voracious feeders and, once they have eaten all the aphids, they then move on to ladybird eggs and larvae and the eggs and caterpillars of moths and butterflies. They out- compete our native ladybirds for food and are generally extremely bad news.
So far from a Loveliness of Ladybirds, this is something very different. Maybe a new collective noun – a Horribleness of Harlequins
Now I am more aware of what is going on in the Ladybird world, I am going to be searching for some nice native ladybirds around here once they all wake up in the Spring.