Ladybirds are often considered to be colourful, charismatic insects that assist in managing our gardens by controlling the numbers of plant pests such as aphids. Eighteen species of ladybird have been recorded in Ireland, but there is still a huge gap in our knowledge of what exactly is out there and where these species are distributed.
Building a picture of the distribution of our native ladybirds has become an urgent task as there is now a new ladybird in town, the Harlequin ladybird Harmonia axaridis. This is an invasive ladybird originating in Asia. It arrived in the UK in the summer of 2004 and is now found in all of England with a few isolated locations in Scotland. It was also introduced into North America in 1988 and is now a serious insect pest. It has subsequently invaded much of north-western Europe and arrived in County Down in 2009. It was first reported in Cork and Wicklow in 2010 and Carlow in 2011. The Harlequin causes problems in the natural environment in that it has a wide dietary range, outcompeting native ladybirds for their main prey of aphids and even consuming other ladybird species eggs and larvae. They can reproduce up to three generations per year whilst most other native ladybird species will only reproduce once.
This year the Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) is launching a nationwide ladybird survey and will be running workshops in Counties Carlow, Cork and Wicklow. This follows on from a very successful survey piloted in Co. Cork by the Cork Branch of the IWT.
“It is important that we build up a picture of native ladybird populations and the current distribution of the invasive Harlequin in these counties as we can monitor the impact that this invasive insect is having on our native species”.
“These kind of projects are a great way for members of the public to make a contribution to science and conservation” stated Daniel Buckley, Chair of the Irish Wildlife Trust. “Anyone can submit a sighting and you don’t have to be an expert!”.
Sightings can be given via the website http://www.biology.ie/ which also shows identification pictures and links to additional information on ladybirds. There is also a Facebook Page where comments and information can be posted.
For further information on the survey please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Ladybird survey workshop details:
10th May 10am-1pm Wicklow Recycling Centre, The Murrough, Wicklow Town, County Wicklow 17th May 10am-1pm Seven Oaks Hotel, Carlow, 18th May 10am-1pm Fota Wildlife Park, Carrigtwohill, County Cork
Please contact email@example.com to reserve a place.
For further details, queries please contact Gill Weymann, Ladybird Survey Coordinator 087-2282040