'The most invasive ladybird on Earth'

The harlequin has spread across the entire British Isles in just a decade. William Fincham and colleagues look at why this beetle has thrived here

The Biologist 63(3) p28-31

Essex, 2004. The harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) first arrives in Britain and begins to spread, rapidly. Over the next four years the species will be found in all regions of England and Wales, and will occupy 1,022 10km square sections of Britain. At its peak, the harlequin will spread at a rate of 105km a year.

Described at the time as 'the most invasive ladybird on Earth', the harlequin ladybird and its rapid spread posed multiple questions for scientists. What enabled the species to capitalise on Britain? What factors, if any, have held the species back? And what impact has the harlequin ladybird had on native species?

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