There’s a diverse display of colour now in our woodlands at Yorkshire Water’s Tophill Low Nature Reserve; and it’s not just the leaves turning.
Scattered around fence posts and tree trunks are a troupe of harlequin ladybirds, a species so named for their diverse colouration and patterns.
So far around 100 different forms of the bug have been found which causes some confusion for the new observer, but generally they can be identified by their large size, white eye spots and rusty coloured leg joints.
They are an alien species which first arrived on UK shores in 2004 and have now spread to the majority of the country.
Hailing from East Asia they were introduced to crops and glasshouses in the USA and Europe, where they did a great job of eating aphids and are reported to be worth many millions to the US faming economy.
Unfortunately though once they have exhausted their supply of aphids they then turn their attention to other insects – including our native species of ladybird.
Over the Atlantic they are now the most prevalent ladybird species having first been observed in the wild in 1988.
Unfortunately yet another ill-conceived bio-control method which has wrought havoc on native wildlife, much like the much maligned cane toad has in Australia.
That said, when properly evaluated biological control can be a great way of eliminating invasive species. Scientists are currently in the final stages of trialling a rust fungus which attacks Japanese knotweed; the notorious concrete busting plant which is nightmarish to control.
The rust was carefully collected in Japan before being brought back with many other knotweed eating or killing organisms from its natural range.
All were trialled on the British species they may potentially affect too, and as such many have been abandoned when it was found they took a fancy to our native plants on consuming all the knotweed.
Hopefully the rust will corrode the knotweed which is choking many of our gardens and verges and leave off our native flora.
l Tophill Low Nature Reserve is located 4 miles from the A164 at Watton. Open daily 9am to 6pm; Admission £3.30 adults, £1.50 concessions. Sorry no dogs. For more information visit www.tophilllow.blogspot.co.uk or follow us on twitter @tophilllow