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Country News - 2005

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British ladybirds under threat

Wednesday 02 February 2005

ONE of Britain's best loved - and most useful - insects, the ladybird, is under twin threats from global warming yet another invader from North America, the harlequin ladybird.

As scientists from around the world continued to debate the threat of global warming at an international conference in Exeter, it emerged that the ladybird, much collected by children and much loved for gardeners because it feeds on aphids, is yet another potential victim.

One reason is that it warmer winters are causing it to wake too early from its hibernation, two weeks before the aphids - blackfly and greenfly, the bane of any gardeners' existence - hatch, leaving the spotted predator to starve.

Meanwhile, its American cousin - bigger, stronger and more aggressive - is taking over large areas of Britain, where it competes with native species for their aphid diet.

In this, it is joining a long list of trans-Atlantic pests which have proved lethal to many local species, including the grey squirrel, escaped mink and signal crayfish.

Much bigger animals are also as threat from global warming, according to speakers at the Exeter conference. They include the polar bear and, according to a paper submitted by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, up to 25 % of all land-based species if temperatures continue to climb at the present rate.


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