Ladybirds aren’t usually considered to be a common pest. Beloved by children and the subject of nursery rhymes, they’re often a welcome sight for gardeners due to their voracious consumption of destructive pests such as aphids. A single adult ladybird can eat as many as 50 aphids in one day, making them ideal for rescuing your lovingly tended-to plants from the brink of death.
However, what many people don’t know is that there are more than 40 different species of ladybird in the UK, some of which you might not even be able to identify as a ladybird. Not all of these are to be welcomed.
This year has seen an explosion in the number of one particular species, harlequin ladybirds – and with temperatures plummeting, they’re now making their way into your home.
What is a Harlequin Ladybird?
The harlequin, or Asian, ladybird varies massively in colour and pattern (they can be yellow, orange, red or black with as many as 21 spots of an opposing colour), but is usually around 7-8mm long, making it much larger than other species.
It is the UK’s fastest invading species and they’ve become widespread at a shockingly rapid pace since they were first discovered in Essex in 2004.
Scientists believe that the harlequin ladybird is responsible for the decline of no less than seven native species, due in part to the fact that they are cannibalistic.
Why Should I Worry About Them?
Well, we don’t mean to panic you, but these bugs carry a sexually transmitted disease called Laboulbeniales fungal disease. Luckily, humans and most pets can’t be affected, but it will spread to other insects and crustaceans, so you should be aware if you have exotic pets.
They also stain your furniture with yellow liquid and produce an unpleasant smell when they gather into large groups (which is just what they love doing in your house in the winter). On top of all this, they’ve been known to bite humans when they get hungry.
Whilst not venomous, a harlequin ladybird bite will produce a slight stinging sensation and can occasionally cause a more severe reaction in people with an allergy. These reactions tend to be very rare but it’s still important to bear in mind if you decide to try and take care of an infestation yourself.
How Can I Get Rid of a Harlequin Ladybird Infestation?
Ideally, you should focus on prevention by ensuring that your windows and doors are properly sealed. Any vents should be covered with a fine mesh which will stop ladybirds, and indeed any insect pest, accessing your home.
Once an infestation has taken root, getting rid of it can be tricky.
Some people will tell you to take a vacuum cleaner and simply suck up the large clusters of insects. Whilst it may seem like a neat solution, this method does have its downsides.
Even if you manage to begin hoovering them whilst they’re sleeping, you’re highly unlikely to get them all before they’re startled awake and disperse throughout your house. This means there will be even more groups to deal with and more staining.
You could potentially also sweep them up with a lidded dustpan and brush, though this has similar risks to vacuuming.
Many commercially available pesticides will be able to kill harlequins, but if you’re at all concerned about bites or further complications, it’s best to contact an experienced BPCA certified pest control company who are expert in dealing with flying insect infestations.
If you have any questions or concerns about ladybirds or any other household pest, contact Safeguard today online or by phone on 0800 328 4931.