Nav: Home

Scientists need your help to spot ladybirds

June 02, 2016

Scientists are calling on people who are out in their garden this summer to take part in The Ladybird Challenge and help discover how far an alien ladybird species in the UK is affecting other insects, including a wasp parasite.

Researchers from the University of Stirling are working in partnership with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and the UK Ladybird Survey to find out whether the natural balance between the seven-spot ladybird and the parasitic wasp has been disrupted by the arrival of another ladybird species in the UK - the harlequin ladybird.

PhD researcher Katie Murray from the University's Faculty of Natural Sciences, said: "Harlequin ladybirds continue to cause large population declines for lots of native ladybirds, but we believe the impact is even more widespread. We need the public to help us find out whether the parasitic wasp has also been affected.

"We're asking volunteers to help find seven-spot ladybirds in their gardens and parks and check if they have a wasp cocoon. Cocoons are easy to spot - they are nearly the same size as the ladybird and are found between its legs."

Intrepid ladybird spotters are encouraged to count how many ladybirds they find and how many have cocoons. Records from these everyday eco-warriors will allow researchers to look at the occurrence of the wasp in the UK and whether it is less common in areas where harlequin ladybirds dominate.

Dr Matt Tinsley, senior lecturer at the University, added: "The wasp has an amazing lifecycle: it lays an egg in an adult ladybird, which hatches into a grub that eats the ladybird from the inside. The grub eventually squeezes out of the still-living ladybird and spins a cocoon between its legs. The ladybird is turned into a 'zombie bodyguard' protecting the cocoon from predators until the wasp emerges. Without the ladybird, the wasp would not be able to complete its lifecycle."

Helen Roy, of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and coordinator of the UK Ladybird Survey, said: "People across the UK have been instrumental in tracking the spread of the harlequin ladybird and providing records of native ladybirds too.

"Through the inspiring contributions of citizen scientists we have hugely increased our understanding of the ecology of ladybirds in Britain. There is now a unique and exciting opportunity to monitor this intriguing parasite alongside the spread of the harlequin ladybird."
-end-
Volunteers can send in their sightings at ladybirdchallenge.co.uk or follow the study on Twitter: @lbird_challenge.

University of Stirling

Related Ecology Articles:

Ecology insights improve plant biomass degradation by microorganisms
Microbes are widely used to break down plant biomass into sugars, which can be used as sustainable building blocks for novel biocompounds.
Giardiasis may be a disease of the ecology of the GI tract
Colonization by the human and animal parasite, Giardia, changed the species composition of the mouse microbiome in a way that might be harmful.
Investigators chart microbial ecology of gingivitis, periodontitis
Gingivitis, a common and mild form of gum disease can progress to periodontitis, a more serious infection that damages the soft tissue of the gums and sometimes even destroys the bone supporting the teeth.
Winners announced for the BMC Ecology Image Competition 2016
From a striking sunrise in the Kalahari Desert, to a wren's nest built under the saddle of a parked bicycle, and geometric land patterns created by earthworms, this year's BMC Ecology Image Competition includes a fascinating array of ecological open-access images which are free to use.
A new framework for inferring community assembly processes in ecology
One of the most fundamental goals in ecology -- determining the community assembly processes that have structured local communities -- has been increasingly studied through the analysis of functional and phylogenetic diversity.
Landscape ecology's role in policymaking
Landscape ecology is a field that is uniquely available to address with the multiscale effects of land-use and land-cover change and inform policy related to human impacts on ecosystems.
Landscape ecology must play a role in policymaking
Landscape ecology considers the influence of time and space on environmental patterns.
Small but not forgotten: New ideas on pollen's ecology and evolution
Although many only turn their thoughts to pollen as allergy season approaches, a new American Journal of Botany Special Issue shows that a diverse array of researchers are actively pursuing research in pollen performance.
Elsevier announces Rhizosphere, a multidisciplinary journal on soil ecology
Elsevier, a world-leading provider of scientific, technical and medical information products and services, today announced the launch of Rhizosphere, a multidisciplinary journal devoted to publishing research on the interactions between plant roots, soil organisms, nutrients, and water.
New book examines ecology of threatened prairie-chickens
A new volume in the Cooper Ornithological Society's Studies in Avian Biology series highlights the ecology of lesser prairie-chickens.

Related Ecology 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

Changing The World
What does it take to change the world for the better? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on activism—what motivates it, why it matters, and how each of us can make a difference. Guests include civil rights activist Ruby Sales, labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, author Jeremy Heimans, "craftivist" Sarah Corbett, and designer and futurist Angela Oguntala.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#521 The Curious Life of Krill
Krill may be one of the most abundant forms of life on our planet... but it turns out we don't know that much about them. For a create that underpins a massive ocean ecosystem and lives in our oceans in massive numbers, they're surprisingly difficult to study. We sit down and shine some light on these underappreciated crustaceans with Stephen Nicol, Adjunct Professor at the University of Tasmania, Scientific Advisor to the Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting Companies, and author of the book "The Curious Life of Krill: A Conservation Story from the Bottom of the World".