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The war of 76 : 1976 that is.
Never heard of it? Surprising really as millions died in that field of conflict all those years ago. Some bipeds succumbed through heat exhaustion and hospitals where inundated with casualties: scratching your head? O.K some of the main field combatants were Ladybirds and Ants, who were competing for the dwindling supplies of aphid food, ladybirds were killing off the ants and also attacking stripped to the waist bipeds who were mostly found to be occupying building sites, as I was myself, after many needle sharp attacks most of us put our tee shirts back on: the excuse given at the time was that the lady birds were looking for salt, but since observing a ladybird larvae this year I have reason to think that they were actually after a real treat, Human Meat.
The reason for the above mention is that for the first time I saw a ladybird larvae (two actually ) and asked the question “What is this bug” in true GoY style the answers came back, these answers set me to looking on the web (“Internet” not to be confused with spiders), it turns out that the bug I was interested in was the larvae stage of the Harlequin Ladybird. From the word harlequin (and I may be wrong (again)) I get multi facet, many coloured, joker, as a general description, this being so what I saw was an awareness of ladybirds from way back then (1976) and the ones doing the biting were yellow with black spots “Yep” I saw defined as harlequin black spotted yellow ladybirds. Looking at the ladybird survey I noted an inundation of sightings in the south east seeming to be the invasion beach-head or could it be there were more people interested then in that area of the country? I picked up two dates from this survey 2004 and 2006, 2006 given as the first sighting “Well” with the forgoing in mind, “Have I got news for you “? in the area of STROUD Gloucestershire (not Strood elsewhere ) these bugs were alive and biting well before 2006 unless that is I’m wrong, am I putting 2 and 2 together and making five? “How say you”? On an awareness (not studied) level, I have noted that the amount of yellow black spotted lady birds have declined compared with red black spotted ones.

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I remember the hot summer of 76, and the ladybirds nipping - we were informed they were just testing to see if we were suitable food or not, but quite a sharp nip I recall.
On the subject of Harlequin ladybirds, as I understand it its not the overall colours, such as yellow and black or black and red, the definition of a harlequin ladybird is made by the size and distribution of the white spots immediately behind the head just before the back starts - these are larger in the harlequin and more noticeable. They're often bigger altogether, but may come in red and black or other colours too, most often red and black though.
I got bitten by ladybirds in Sheringham, Norfolk, last year on a hot day - there was a sudden migration of ladybirds from Europe, and they all landed on the same day, the air was full and the streets were running with them, everyone had to go home - they were a mixture of ordinary and harlequin ladybirds though, on closer inspection, and for sure one of the ones I got nipped by wasn't a harlequin.

6 Dec, 2010


I certainly remember the ladybird invasion! They were giants! Thousands of them used to spend the nights on the house walls: it was like a scene from Dr Who! I was bitten several times including once on my left nipple and ended up in casualty as it got infected. Years later, my wife was bitten on her right leg and ended up with a months worth of antibiotics after being bitten by one.
The harlequin ladybirds come in around many different colours and patterns. Use this guide to help you check what ladybird you have seen (from the Harlequin Ladybird Survey website).

Harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis):
• Size and shape: large (6 - 8mm long), quite round and domed
• Elytra (wing case) colour: pale yellow-orange, orange-red, red or black; highly variable
• Spots: 0 - 21 orange-red or black spots, or grid pattern; highly variable
• Most common forms in UK: orange with 15 - 21 black spots; black with 2 or 4 orange or red spots
• Pronotum pattern: white or cream with up to 5 spots or fused lateral spots forming 2 curved lines, M-shaped mark or solid trapezoid. (The pronotum is the top of the section between head and wing cases.)
• Other characteristics: wing cases with wide keel at back; legs almost always brown.

Hope this helps.

10 Dec, 2010

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