Nav: Home

Harlequin ladybirds are conquering the world at great speed

March 31, 2016

The arrival and subsequent dramatic increase in the number of the invasive alien harlequin ladybird in many countries has been met with considerable trepidation by the scientific community.

"The rapid spread of this species has inspired biologists to study the process of invasion on a global scale," says Helen Roy of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in the UK. She is the lead author of a paper in Springer's journal Biological Invasions that includes the insights of researchers from 45 institutions worldwide about related global research endeavours. The paper is part of a special issue just published on insect invasions.

The harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) was introduced to some countries as a biological control agent against agricultural pests such as aphids. It has however also spread to countries where it was not intentionally released. It especially poses a threat to local ladybird species and other insects that feed on aphids. First introduced to the USA in 1916, it has rapidly invaded parts of Canada, most of Europe, and a few South American and Southern and North African countries. Since being introduced to European Russia in 2010 for instance, it has expanded its range southwards by 300 kilometres per year. It established itself across the Netherlands within four years after being introduced. Part of its success seems to be its ability to thrive in many differing habitats and climatic conditions.

However, it is not a message of all doom and gloom from the research community. Aspects of the ladybird's diet, habitat, and the climates in which it flourishes as well as factors that come into play in its spread have been studied. The insect has inspired global collaborations and provided the impetus for understanding biological invasions within and between various countries. Work has also been done to identify potential natural enemies that might regulate populations of harlequin ladybirds, such as the wasp parasite Dinocampus coccinellae which occurs worldwide and uses most types of ladybirds as a host.

The paper also highlights how so-called citizen science projects provide scientists with invaluable information with which to track the spread of ladybirds and other species. "The involvement of the public in monitoring this species in a number of countries around the world is inspiring and has provided data on scales that would be otherwise unachievable," adds Roy. Such findings have led to the development of different approaches to surveying and monitoring other invasive alien species.

In the UK, for instance, members of the public use the online survey http://www.ladybird-survey.org to record information about the harlequin ladybird's spread as well as for sightings of other ladybird species. The lessons learnt from such initiatives have helped develop approaches to citizen science and have inspired new projects both within and among countries.

"The coupling of citizen science approaches with global collaborations among researchers will provide the scale of information required to address some of the complex ecological questions that remain unanswered," Roy says, explaining what the future holds for research related to the harlequin ladybird.
-end-
References:
1. Roy, H.E. et al (2016). The harlequin ladybird, Harmonia axyridis: global perspectives on invasion history and ecology, Biological Invasions. DOI 10.1007/s10530-016-1077-6
2. Biological Invasions, Volume 18, Issue 4, April 2016: Special section: "Drivers, impacts, mechanisms and adaptation in insect invasions."

Springer

Related Species Articles:

Two new species of orchids discovered in Okinawa
Two new species of parasitic plants have been discovered on the main island of Okinawa, Japan, and named Gastrodia nipponicoides and Gastrodia okinawensis.
Cornering endangered species
Geographic areas occupied by certain species shrink as they decline in abundance, leaving them more vulnerable to extinction by harvest.
New species of Brazilian copepod suggests ancient species diversification and distribution
A new species and genus of a tiny freshwater copepod has been found in the Brazilian rocky savannas, an ecosystem under heavy anthropogenic pressure.
Redefining 'species'
What is a species? Biologists -- and ornithologists in particular -- have been debating the best definition for a very long time.
New species discovered in Antarctica
A team of Japanese scientists has discovered a new species of polychaete, a type of marine annelid worm, 9-meters deep underwater near Japan's Syowa Station in Antarctica, providing a good opportunity to study how animals adapt to extreme environments.
Genomic tools for species discovery inflate estimates of species numbers, U-Michigan biologists contend
Increasingly popular techniques that infer species boundaries in animals and plants solely by analyzing genetic differences are flawed and can lead to inflated diversity estimates, according to a new study from two University of Michigan evolutionary biologists.
Common US snake actually 3 different species
New research reveals that a snake found across a huge swath of the Eastern United States is actually three different species.
The origins of Cuban species
An international research team suggests the endangered Cuban solenodon evolved after the extinction of dinosaurs.
New rare species of whale identified
Researchers have identified a new rare species of beaked whale with a range in the remote North Pacific Ocean.
Unusual new zoantharian species is the first described solitary species in over 100 years
A very unusual new species of zoantharian was discovered by two researchers in Okinawa.

Related Species Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Setbacks
Failure can feel lonely and final. But can we learn from failure, even reframe it, to feel more like a temporary setback? This hour, TED speakers on changing a crushing defeat into a stepping stone. Guests include entrepreneur Leticia Gasca, psychology professor Alison Ledgerwood, astronomer Phil Plait, former professional athlete Charly Haversat, and UPS training manager Jon Bowers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".