Seven-spot Ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata)
One of the most distinctive and, arguably, the most popular insects in the UK, the ladybird has captured the imaginations of many a young child. However, the future of our bespeckled friend is not as bright as her iconic red coat. Many native species of ladybirds are in decline thanks, in part, due to the action of a rival species – Harmonia axyridis – the Harlequin ladybird. The word harlequin originates in old European folk tales; buffonish comic figures dressed in multicoloured clothes. Unfortunately, there is nothing funny about the eponymous ladybird. Once confined to the western edge of Asia, the beetle has now spread worldwide, undermining and harming many of its less competitive sisters. This global takeover was no accident; it has been deliberately introduced into many countries as a way of controlling aphid numbers in agricultural land without using pesticides. The seven-spot ladybird is but one casualty in a long list of species harmed by the misguided actions of man.