Saturday, May 21

M for Harlequin

When I was clearing a bed on the plot a few weeks ago ladybirds were scurrying here, there and everywhere.

I didn't manage a photo of these fast moving individuals but I did manage to take a photograph of one mooching about on a blackberry leaf.
It can be quite tricky deciding whether a ladybird is a native species or a harlequin invader.
I know that a harlequin is usually larger - if it is less than 5mm it definitely isn't a harlequin, however some native species are larger than 5mm. Besides who carries a tape measure about 4mm and 5mm wouldn't look so different to the naked eye.

If it is red with 7 distinct spots it is our native 7 spot ladybird. The one below was quite big but had 7 spots so I guess that it's one of ours.

I have read that one way to recognise a harlequin is by a M or trapezium marking behind its head so this individual must be a harlequin - unless you know something different.
It's much easier to identify the harlequin's spiky larvae.
The larvae of our native species hasn't any spikes, 

I posted about the ladybird life cycle here


We put together this video in 2007 which shows our native ladybird larva but be warned the quality is 2007 standard.



Maybe we should try for an updated version.


There are 3500 species of ladybirds worldwide of these 46 are considered UK residents. An identification sheet can be found here.

Have you a foolproof method of identifying an adult harlequin?


16 comments:

  1. I am fairly confident I haven't had any Harlequin in my garden, if I have I haven't seen them. Plenty of native ones though. I can tell the difference between 4mm and 5mm with my naked eye as I can mark out patterns without a ruler with about 95% accuracy on tiny seams. I guess that is decades of experience as a seamstress and quilter.
    Are we supposed to dispose of Harlequins in the same way we are supposed to dispose of Spanish bluebells?

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    1. At one time you sent in records of sightings, Deborah but I think it is beyond that stage now. There is no encouragement to destroy those that you do find. It would hardly make a difference anyway,

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  2. The identification might be difficult but your photos are superb.

    What did you decide to do in the end?

    Love Deborah's comment :-} As a quiltmaker I too can eyeball the smallest discrepancy in a quarter-inch seam from some distance :-}

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    1. You seamstresses (I put sewers but you may have been offended by that - think about it) must develop bionic eyes.

      I just left it alone - we have lots in the garden and controlling them is impossible.

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  3. Here was me thinking "Surely it should be H for Harlequin"...? I shall be peering very closely at some Ladybirds now to see if they have Ms!

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    1. I bet you thought that I had lost it, Mark.

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  4. and they say macro photography is a waste of time, I shall measure mine on the plot if I see any using a GPS tracker ill look into it great shots Sue by the way

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    1. Thanks, David. I find macro fascinating and as your recent post stated, no need for a macro lens.

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  5. I've heard about the "M" as well when I did a bit of research after I was surprised by a ladybug that actually bit me - something that had never happened before. I then learned that they were introduced on purpose in order to control aphids, etc. - You would think that after all of the disastrous introductions of invasive species, both intended and not, whoever thought it would be a good idea to do this would know better.

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    1. I read that it was introduced purposely into N America and parts of Europe but I don't think it was purposefully brought here, Margaret. It was seen as an alien invader,

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  6. Hi Sue, just been having a look through what you've been up to whilst I've been offline for a bit. Everything is looking great, I had no idea about the ladybirds so thanks for that....I will be discussing this little bit of knowledge with my wildlife club at school next week!!

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    1. Glad to help with lesson plans, Tanya.

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  7. That's very similar looking insect! Love ladybugs! I remember catching them while young! ;)

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    1. For some reason people like them, Malar evern though they don't like other beetles.

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  8. Excellent pics of tiny subjects!!! We seem to have many species of ladybirds, mostly native at the moment.I shall stare more intently now!xxx

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    1. I've printed out the ID sheets and have them pinned on our shed noticeboard, Dina

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