Invader hits British ladybug numbers

Feb. 7, 2012 at 5:58 PM

WALLINGFORD, England, Feb. 7 (UPI) -- A decline in ladybugs native to Britain is being driven by an invasive species of the family of colorful little beetles, scientists say.

The Asian harlequin ladybug, or ladybird as the beetles are called in many parts of the world, is responsible for a decline of seven out of eight native species examined by researchers, the BBC reported Tuesday.

The harlequin species was brought into Europe for pest control but is now seen as a pest itself, as harlequins breed more frequently than many native European species and compete for food and habitat, researchers said.

"This study provides strong evidence of a link between the arrival of the harlequin and declines in other species of ladybird," said Helen Roy from the Center for Ecology and Hydrology in Oxfordshire.

The invasive ladybugs could have a damaging effect on ecosystems throughout Europe, researchers said.

"Ladybirds provide an incredibly useful ecological function by keeping aphids in check," said Tim Adriaens of the Research Institute for Nature and Forest in Belgium.

"At the continental scale, the arrival of the harlequin could impact on the resilience of ecosystems and severely diminish the vital services that ladybirds deliver."

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