Hundreds of cannibalistic STI-ridden ladybirds from Asia and North America are plaguing British homes, swarming 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 and shared skin-crawling images and footage of their houses being invaded.
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.
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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
Kelly Sotherton had tweeted about the ladybirds when she returned home and said they were in every window
The ladybirds (pictured) tend to congregate around doors and windows as they look for warm spots to hibernate
British heptathlete and GB Olympian Kelly Sotherton tweeted a video of hundreds of ladybirds taking over her window and crawling across the ceiling.
She said: ‘Get home and welcomed by swarms of ladybirds in every window #ladybirdinvasion.’
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 black or white spots, which can vary in count, from them being covered in spots, to just one or two.
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.
The Harlequin Ladybird Survey has been monitoring how the insect has spread.
The Harlequin ladybirds first started to come to the UK in 2004 (left) in just one year there is a big increase in the amount of bugs inhabiting the south (right)
Then in 2006 (left) the bugs spread towards the midlands, before reaching the north in 2007, with a few recorded living in Ireland (right)
In 2008 (left) the bugs move into Scotland and occupy more of Ireland as well as a huge chunk of the south. In 2009 (right) it’s clear the bugs don’t intend on leaving and have secured a large amount of the south
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.
One office worker from Bolton called Alice Rawsthorne sent in this picture of the ladybirds that had congregated in one corner of the building
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
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
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
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
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.
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!’
The notorious Harlequin, imported to help European farmers control pests, has been declared the fastest invading species.
A traditional lady bird (left) is red in colour and will often have a few spots, whereas the Harlequin ladybird (right) is orange
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.