Thursday, 23 February 2012

Harlequin ladybird spotted in Shetland

Most northerly record received to date
Guest blog from Dr Helen Roy of the UK Ladybird Survey
On 18th February 2012 a confirmed record of the alien Harlequin ladybird was received by the UK Ladybird Survey from the Shetland Islands.  The ladybird was spotted in the kitchen of a local resident.  This is the most northerly record of the Harlequin ladybird in Britain.  Previously the most northerly record of the Harlequin ladybird in Britain was from Orkney.
The Harlequin ladybird arrived in South East England in 2004 and has spread at 100 km per year across England and into Scotland. 

The first confirmed Harlequin ladybird in Shetland - (c) Elizabeth Wark

Elizabeth Wark who sent the record to the UK Ladybird Survey described her sighting: “I was sitting at my kitchen table having my morning coffee when a slight movement on the ceiling caught my eye. It certainly wasn't a spider so I stood up on the table for closer inspection. To my surprise it was a ladybird! I have never seen a ladybird with this particular colouring or markings before so I went online to try to identify it. This led me to the UK Ladybird Survey.”
The ladybird is currently located in the Aith Junior High School science laboratory under observation by local school children.  Many of the children have never seen a ladybird before, let alone this particular species. 
There are 47 species of ladybird resident in Britain but these are rarely seen on Shetland.  Indeed there have only been a scattering of sightings of a few common species. The Shetland Biological Records Centre has only 9 other ladybird records of 5 different species, which include a possible (but not confirmed) sighting of a Harlequin in 2009.
Paul Harvey of the Shetland Biological Records Centre told us, “We know there will be plenty more records out there as ladybirds tend to look a little out of place in Shetland, so please let us know if you’ve ever seen one and if you have photos, even better!”
The arrival of the Harlequin ladybird on the Shetland Islands was perhaps inevitable.  This record again highlights the importance of volunteer recorders in tracking the spread of invasive alien species.  Their commitment to the UK Ladybird Survey is inspirational!
Dr Helen Roy

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