Friday, 4 November 2016

We're being invaded - by ladybirds




31 October 2016

Across the final weekend of October, ladybirds appear to have proliferated in two places - indoors and on social media.

Back in March the BBC asked if the hot summer of 1976 was replicated, would we see an influx of ladybirds again? The recent answer on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, including an 'attack' on Gary Lineker, would appear to be a resounding yes.

And their behaviour depends on whether they are a native species, such as the Seven-spot, or non-native Harlequin.

One of the many people responding to the ladybird movement on Twitter is Helen Roy, who runs the UK Ladybird Survey as a volunteer alongside Peter Brown but works as an ecologist at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Oxfordshire.

"The Harlequin ladybird numbers are quite high this year," Helen told the BBC. "They built up in large numbers over summer, so we expected to see high numbers reported as they entered people's houses to spend the cold winter months."

Helen has been encouraging the UK public to record ladybird sightings and numbers for more than a decade and the survey, utilising online recording, Twitter (@UKLadybirds) and a smartphone app, has gathered more than 100,000 sightings from around 20,000 contributors which Helen was then able to share with many others and use in her research.
Abby Semple Skipper, an "informal" surveyor of ladybirds who reports south-west London sightings to Helen, said "last week was my first visit to Boxhill and I've never seen so many flying at once". 

She added: "It seems a lot of people have been reporting similar sights but it will be interesting to see if there's been a major increase in estimated numbers. Last winter was so mild I wouldn't be surprised if there was a significant increase."

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