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Cannibalistic ladybirds riddled with STIs set to swarm UK homes

Cannibalistic ladybirds riddled with STIs set to swarm UK homes

An expert has warned the UK of an influx of sexually transmitted fungus-spreading, cannibalistic ladybirds invading the country.

An expert has warned the UK of an influx of sexually transmitted, fungus-spreading, cannibalistic ladybirds invading the country.

As if there wasn't enough to worry about already – monkeypox cases on the rise, coronavirus rearing its ugly head again as we approach the colder months, and the UK having just got over a number of wildfires caused by roasting temperatures as a result of the climate crisis – now we've all got to be on the lookout for ladybirds that appear to be straight out of a horror film.

Summer may soon be over, but the Harlequin variety of ladybirds is only just getting started, with potentially thousands set to swarm our homes.

An expert has warned that Harlequin ladybirds are set to descend on the UK.
PA Images/ Alamy Stock Photo

This isn't the Harlequin ladybird's first rodeo either, with the species having previously targeted the UK in April 2019, as well as swarms having sped in the year before in October 2018.

While scientist Dr Helen Roy of the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology has reassured that the incoming influx of Harlequin species poses no threat to us humans, she highlighted the 'concerning' impact the bugs could have on the UK's native species of ladybird – the two-spot.

According to the UK Ladybird Survey: "The invasion of the harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) threatens our native ladybirds and other species."

The dataset gathered by the survey says 'seven out of eight native species of ladybird [in the UK are] declining and this [is] strongly linked to the arrival of the harlequin ladybird'.

"People can still find them. They are declining – not to an absolutely detrimental level – but it is a bit concerning," Dr Roy resolved.

The sexually-transmitted fungus the Harlequin species carries isn't thought to be connected to declining numbers of the UK's native ladybird despite how 'it is not only sexually transmitted between ladybirds but when they huddle together through the winter they can pass it on through contact'.

"[It is] specific to the ladybird so it of no consequence whatsoever to humans. And in fact it's of very little consequence to the ladybirds either," Dr Roy explained.

This is because the ladybirds can 'live with it living on them'.

Instead, it's the competition for the same habitat and food, as well as the cannibalistic nature of the Harlequin ladybirds, which poses a threat to the UK's native species.

Dr Roy said: "Those ladybirds [the two-spot] also feed on aphids and the harlequins out-compete them.

"Also the harlequin ladybird has a very broad diet and will eat some of the other ladybirds. The two-spot ladybirds have this very high level of overlap in terms of where the two live."

The climate crisis has also caused issues for the survival of the two-spot ladybird by interfering with the 'healthy functioning environment' that is needed for 'all these different species to be playing their part'.

While the two-spotted ladybird lovers among us may be tempted to whip out a fly swatter to defend the UK's native species against the incoming hoard, Dr Roy suggested a different approach.

"I would really encourage people to just leave them because of the possibility they will confuse them for another species."

UK residents should instead opt for leaving 'messy patches of garden' and putting out 'shallow dishes of water' to help boost the bug's natural habitats and hydration so there's less competition in a bid to reduce the cannibalistic Coccinellidae.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock

Topics: Animals, UK News, Health