News | World News | Giant swarms of 'cannibalistic' Harlequin ladybirds riddled with an STI are invading British homes

Giant swarms of 'cannibalistic' Harlequin ladybirds riddled with an STI are invading British homes

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It's a #ladybirdinvasion! Homeowners share horrifying pictures of 'biblical plague' of STI-riddled cannibal Harlequin ladybirds invading British houses amid fears they will WIPE OUT the native species

  • Hundreds of ladybirds have begun swarming around windows and doors in UK 
  • The bugs usually descend in the autumn, between September and October 
  • England's native 2-spot ladybird species has been decimated by the Harlequins 
  • Some carry a sexually transmitted infection called Laboulbeniales, a fungus
  • Has YOUR home been taken over by swarms of ladybirds? Send pictures and video to Terri-Ann Williams at Terri-Ann.Williams@mailonline.co.uk 

By Phoebe Weston And Terri-ann Williams For Mailonline

Published: 03:03 EDT, 11 October 2018 | Updated: 08:18 EDT, 11 October 2018

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Hundreds of cannibalistic STI ridden ladybirds are plaguing British homes as they swarm windows and doors as the weather starts to chill in Britain. 

Thousands of people have reported swarms of the bugs, known as Harlequin ladybirds, entering their homes.  

Harlequin ladybirds are larger than other ladybird species which they prey on, including England's native two-spot ladybirds which have been decimated by the creatures. 

Scroll down for video

British heptathlete and GB Olympian Kelly Sotherton tweeted pictures of hundreds of ladybirds crawling around her window and across the ceiling.
British heptathlete and GB Olympian Kelly Sotherton tweeted pictures of hundreds of ladybirds crawling around her window and across the ceiling.

British heptathlete and GB Olympian Kelly Sotherton tweeted pictures of hundreds of ladybirds crawling around her window and across the ceiling.

Emma Samms tweeted that she had also had some ladybird visitors in her home  
Emma Samms tweeted that she had also had some ladybird visitors in her home  

Emma Samms tweeted that she had also had some ladybird visitors in her home  

The ladybirds (pictured) tend to congregate around doors and windows as they look for warm spots to hibernate
The ladybirds (pictured) tend to congregate around doors and windows as they look for warm spots to hibernate

The ladybirds (pictured) tend to congregate around doors and windows as they look for warm spots to hibernate

A Harlequin lady bird measures around 7-8 mm or about 1/4 inch, whereas a normal ladybird is less than 5 mm.

The Harlequin can vary in colour, they can either be a bright orange with black spots, or they can be black with a few large black spots. Traditional ladybirds are red with lots of white spots.

A common diet for the Harlequin is an aphid, which are small sap sucking insects that can cause a lack of plant vigour, distorted growth and often excrete a sticky substance. 

Harlequins are particularly prone to feeding on other ladybird species, particularly at the larval (juvenile) stage. Other ladybirds also do this to some extent but harlequins are more successful as the larvae are bigger and better defended than those of other species.

Because of their size Harlequins usually win in such confrontations of larvae that take place in summer on the nettles and trees of our gardens. They are also highly cannibalistic, which can be helpful in times of food shortages.

People from up and down the country have been sharing their images of the disease ridden bugs that seem to be looking for a place to hide from the cold weather. 

British heptathlete and GB Olympian Kelly Sotherton tweeted a horrifying video of hundreds of ladybirds crawling around her window and across the ceiling. 

She said: 'Get home and welcomed by Swarms of ladybirds In every window #ladybirdinvasion'. 

Some of the ladybirds carry a sexually transmitted disease called Laboulbeniales - an order of fungi which live off the exoskeletons of insects and cause yellow growths.

Although the fungus doesn't pose a risk to humans, it can cause a bad smell in homes and even stain furniture. 

Hesperomyces virescens, the specific species of fungus that affects Harlequin ladybirds, is transmitted between ladybirds during mating and also by individuals that rub against each other when they gather in groups during winter. 

The bugs usually descend in the autumn, between September and October, and this year they have come out in force.

Kelly Sotherton had tweeted about the ladybirds when she returned home and said they were in every window
Kelly Sotherton had tweeted about the ladybirds when she returned home and said they were in every window

Kelly Sotherton had tweeted about the ladybirds when she returned home and said they were in every window

The ladybirds are increasingly making their way indoors and into the homes of Brits
The ladybirds are increasingly making their way indoors and into the homes of Brits

The ladybirds are increasingly making their way indoors and into the homes of Brits

Twitter users have been sharing their snaps of the ladybird invasion
Twitter users have been sharing their snaps of the ladybird invasion

Twitter users have been sharing their snaps of the ladybird invasion

The bugs have been seen on the crevices of windows, almost as though they are trying to escape the cold weather 
The bugs have been seen on the crevices of windows, almost as though they are trying to escape the cold weather 

The bugs have been seen on the crevices of windows, almost as though they are trying to escape the cold weather 

Owain Connors poked fun at the invasion and hinted that someone may have had an awkward trip to the GP to get them tested
Owain Connors poked fun at the invasion and hinted that someone may have had an awkward trip to the GP to get them tested

Owain Connors poked fun at the invasion and hinted that someone may have had an awkward trip to the GP to get them tested

One user 'Harry Smith' said that the ladybirds could be giving people a jail out of free card
One user 'Harry Smith' said that the ladybirds could be giving people a jail out of free card

One user 'Harry Smith' said that the ladybirds could be giving people a jail out of free card

One user was shocked at the amount of ladybirds that seemed to be out and about 
One user was shocked at the amount of ladybirds that seemed to be out and about 

One user was shocked at the amount of ladybirds that seemed to be out and about 

The #ladybirdinvasion wasn't a surprise to some users who have said they have always been suspicious of the bugs
The #ladybirdinvasion wasn't a surprise to some users who have said they have always been suspicious of the bugs

The #ladybirdinvasion wasn't a surprise to some users who have said they have always been suspicious of the bugs

Some people joked that a moment of silence should have been held for the people who had to check the ladybirds for STDs
Some people joked that a moment of silence should have been held for the people who had to check the ladybirds for STDs

Some people joked that a moment of silence should have been held for the people who had to check the ladybirds for STDs

They tend to congregate around doors and windows as they look for a warm spot to hibernate in over the winter months.

The Harlequin ladybird first arrived in Britain in 2004 - possibly by being blown over or in fruit and vegetables from Europe- and it has spread at a greater rate than grey squirrels, American mink, ring-necked parakeets and muntjac deer. 

Scientists say the small spotted bugs are mostly harmless, and will leave of their own accord in spring if left alone. 

It's likely that the UK's sweltering summer boosted the number of insects, Professor Helen Roy at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, who organises the UK Ladybird Survey, told the BBC.

She said reports of an infestation started in the north of England when the weather first turned cool.

'It's quite a wildlife spectacle to see,' she said. 

The ladybirds are increasingly finding their way into people's houses and have even caused severe allergic reactions in some of their victims. 

Scientists fear the Harlequin could wipe out British ladybirds altogether after spreading rapidly.

The public have been taking to Twitter to share photographs and videos of the flying insects in and around their homes

Codie McKenzie posted a video of the red bugs buzzing around her garden earlier this month.

She wrote: 'What’s causing the swarms of ladybirds today!? I’ve never seen so many!'

Laura Kate Dale said: 'Not sure what happened in the past hour, but suddenly there are like 30 ladybirds on my office window, with a tonne more flying around outside. 

'More ladybirds in one place than I have ever seen before, had to close my window as so many were flying inside the house. Nap time over?'

Dean Nevin also posted a video, showing the bugs climbing the door frame and walls outside of his house in Warwick.

He said: 'Warwick seems to be being taken over by Ladybirds. THEY ARE EVERYWHERE!'

HARLEQUIN LADYBIRDS 

The notorious Harlequin, imported to help European farmers control pests, has been declared the fastest invading species.

It arrived in Britain in 2004 either by being blown over or in fruit and vegetables from Europe and it has spread at a greater rate than grey squirrels, American mink, ring-necked parakeets and muntjac deer.

Over an 11 year period in which the Harlequin invaded England it accounted for up to 70 per cent of all the ladybirds recorded.

It is known to feed on 2-spot ladybirds, and it is feared this predation is an important driver of the changes observed.

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