Tends to be rounder in shape than most UK native species;
Is orange rather than red with between 15 and 21 spots;
Is about 5-8mm in size - slightly bigger than the native seven-spot ladybird;
Has brown legs;
Has distinctive marking behind the head - a large black M-shape on a white plate.
Others may be black with two or four orange or red spots, or yellow and black. But despite being highly variable, none of the forms are easily mistaken for any British ladybirds.
To combat this pest, a UK-wide survey has been launched to track the harlequin and monitor its spread in an attempt to control it, perhaps using a pheromone-specific trap. The survey has been organised by researchers from the University of Cambridge, Anglia Polytechnic University, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the Natural History Museum and The Wildlife Trusts. Now is the time for ladybirds to start to wake up and begin looking for partners with which to mate. The call is for all gardeners, farmers and wildlife enthusiasts to examine trees, bushes and plants to record and report sightings of the pest to “www.harlequin-survey.org”.
The survey website has comprehensive information about identifying the harlequin. There’s also an on-line recording form (a paper one can be accessed), and a photograph of the ladybird would also help verification of each find. The researchers also request you send any live specimens in a small box or film canister (don't put anything wet in the box as this will kill the harlequin) to:
Dr M Majerus, Dept of Genetics, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EH
So keep your eyes open…
Angela Thompson (Membership Secretary)