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 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.
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."


Related Species Articles:

Marine species are outpacing terrestrial species in the race against global warming
Global warming is causing species to search for more temperate environments in which to migrate to, but it is marine species -- according to the latest results of a Franco-American study mainly involving scientists from the CNRS, Ifremer, the Université Toulouse III-Paul Sabatier and the University of Picardy Jules Verne -- that are leading the way by moving up to six times faster towards the poles than their terrestrial congeners.
Directed species loss from species-rich forests strongly decreases productivity
At high species richness, directed loss, but not random loss, of tree species strongly decreases forest productivity.
What is an endangered species?
What makes for an endangered species classification isn't always obvious.
One species, many origins
In a paper published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, a group of researchers argue that our evolutionary past must be understood as the outcome of dynamic changes in connectivity, or gene flow, between early humans scattered across Africa.
Species on the move
A total of 55 animal species in the UK have been displaced from their natural ranges or enabled to arrive for the first time on UK shores because of climate change over the last 10 years (2008-2018) -- as revealed in a new study published today by scientists at international conservation charity ZSL (Zoological Society of London).
Chasing species' 'intactness'
In an effort to better protect the world's last ecologically intact ecosystems, researchers developed a new metric called 'The Last of the Wild in Each Ecoregion' (LWE), which aimed to quantify the most intact parts of each ecoregion.
How do species adapt to their surroundings?
Several fish species can change sex as needed. Other species adapt to their surroundings by living long lives -- or by living shorter lives and having lots of offspring.
Five new frog species from Madagascar
Scientists at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet in Munich and the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology have named five new species of frogs found across the island of Madagascar.
How new species arise in the sea
How can a species split into several new species if they still live close to each other and are able to interbreed?
How new species emerge
International research team reconstructs the evolutionary history of baboons.
More Species News and Species Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Clint Smith
The killing of George Floyd by a police officer has sparked massive protests nationwide. This hour, writer and scholar Clint Smith reflects on this moment, through conversation, letters, and poetry.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

If former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's case for the death of George Floyd goes to trial, there will be this one, controversial legal principle looming over the proceedings: The reasonable officer. In this episode, we explore the origin of the reasonable officer standard, with the case that sent two Charlotte lawyers on a quest for true objectivity, and changed the face of policing in the US. This episode was produced by Matt Kielty with help from Kelly Prime and Annie McEwen. Support Radiolab today at