the naturalist man's picture

Harlequin ladybirds

Given the damage harlequin ladybirds do to our native fauna it can only be a matter of time before the government adds them to section 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) along with the likes of the Colarado beetle and grey squirrels (actually grey squirrels can now be released if you get a licence from Natural England!).

Should we preempt the law by not releasing any harlequin ladybirds we catch? I'd be interested in your feelings on this one.



charlieb's picture

Isn't it illegal to release

Isn't it illegal to release any non-native species unless given exception from Natural England?

Martin Harvey's picture


There is information about the legal aspects of releasing non-natives on the DEFRA website:

Their summary states that "It is illegal to allow any animal which is not ordinarily resident [or a regular visitor] in Great Britain, or is listed on Schedule 9 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, to escape into the wild, or to release it into the wild without a licence. It is also illegal to plant or otherwise cause to grow in the wild any plant listed on Schedule 9 of the Act."

This leaves some wriggle-room for debate over what species are "ordinarily resident", but I think you'd have a hard time arguing that Harlequin is not now a resident.

A entomologist friend of mine lives in a Surrey village, and when Harlequin first arrived there some years ago he did try going out and systematically destroying all the ones he could find. The following week there were many more of them than there had been at first.

My impression is that we will have to learn to live with the Harlequin, eradication is not an option. However, there are some signs that the predators and parasites associated with our native ladybirds are begiing to attack the Harlequin as well, so it may not become as dominant as has been feared. There's some information about this here:
(once you've got past the alarmist "threat-to-1000-species" headline)

Entomologist and biological recorder

tootsietim's picture

decline of the harlequin??

Where I work, in Norwich, we have had large numbers of Harlequins for a couple of years now, but this year I am seeing far fewer. I looked for them in their usual haunts on the 04 08 09 and could find only 2. (in previous years i have found dozens of adults and larvae). Is there any evidence of their numbers being controlled?.

the naturalist man's picture

Release of non-native species

In a word, yes under secion 14 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. Though the legeslation is full of loopholes except for species listed in schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Schedule 9 is under review and I fully expect Harlequins to be added. For further information the government has a really good summary web page concerning the legeslation surrounding non-native species:

Look at the penilties they are frightening. Theoretically, you could face a fine of 1,000s of pounds and a prison sentence for releasing a harlequin ladybird, or certainly when it is added to section 9. However, what would be the public perception of naturalists if we were to kill every harlequin we found?

I represented the local Wildlife Trust on a regional committee involved in the culling of ruddy duck in the early days of the project. I quickly pulled out not because I did not agree with the cull but because of the way they disregarded public opinion. Rather than trying to convince the public of the need for a cull then carrying it out, they decided, regionally at least to cull regardless of what Joe Public thought.

In my opinion we need to convince the public, and the media, that these are 'nasty' little creatures first. Of course that could lead to people killing all ladybirds because they can not tell the difference - enter iSpot!

Graham Banwell

Visit the iSpot Yorkshire forum for information on events, issues and news relating to 'God's own country'

sb24599's picture

Harlequin Ladybird

I found one on my kitchen worktop yesterday and took the opportunity to try and photograph it for my Neighbourhood Nature course and then released it. Trying to identify what kind of ladybird it was, I came across this forum. I had no idea about the controversy surrounding this little insect.

Vinny's picture

I think it'd be a bit futile...

...given there are literally millions of them across the UK already! Last week I had to remove over a hundred from the window frames of the flat we've just moved to. If I'd have killed them all it would have done precious little to their overall population. Let's face it - they can fly across the English Channel so we just have to live with them.