Invasions of the ‘large and aggressive’ Harlequin ladybird – originally from Asia – have already been reported in UK
Ladybirds carrying sexually-transmitted diseases are back in Britain and invading our homes.
And most-worryingly there have already been sightings of the bugs “dropping from the ceiling into people’s food”.
The foreign insects, called Harlequin ladybirds, can be identified by their distinctive black wings.
They have also been known to spawn multiple broods throughout the spring and summer.
And a “dangerous” STD called Laboulbeniales fungal disease has been attributed to the tiny creatures, the Liverpool Echo reports .
Residents in the city’s Woolton area have reported an “invasion” of the Harlequin ladybirds, which have even begun to enter homes, according to one Liverpool City councillor Alice Bennett.
In the most stomach-churning cases, Cllr Bennett even claimed that the ladybirds had been seen dropping onto plates of food from above.
Scientists have dubbed the animal Britain’s most invasive species, as it preys on seven native ladybirds – including the common two-spot.
What exactly is the sexually-transmitted illness these foreign insects have brought with them – and can it be passed on to people?
The Harlequin ladybird, also known as Harmonia axyridis, is a varied species which carries a large range of colours.
They can have red, orange, black and yellow markings.
It is considered the most invasive ladybird species on earth, and is larger and more aggressive than other ladybirds.
On rare occasions, the Harlequin has also been known to eat other insects
But do they actually carry STDs?
Yes and no. The disease they carry is called Laboulbeniales, and it is a form of fungi.
The exact effects of Laboulbeniales are not fully known, although the most obvious symptoms are long, yellow growths which penetrate the creature’s exoskeleton.
It can also occur in other bugs, but is very a common affliction for ladybirds.
Experts believe our native species of ladybird, which is already threatened by loss of its natural habitat, will become infected with the fungus, which is passed on through mating.
It can also be transmitted from one insect to another when they “huddle” close together.
The UK Ladybird Survey says it is plausible that Laboulbeniales will limit the insects’ lifespan, or the number of eggs a female can produce over her life.
But humans cannot actually catch the disease, nor can infected ladybirds pose any harm to us.
The fungus is specific to arthropods, which includes insects; crustaceans; centipedes; millipedes; and some arachnids.
So why are scientists worried?
The worst-case scenario is that the population of our ladybirds – which is already under attack – could dwindle even further, with untold consequences on the wider British ecosystem.
The Harlequin ladybirds can also leave behind a nasty chemical odor in homes they invade, and are also known to crawl over furniture, leaving ugly stains.
The majority of the new species originally come from Asia, but have also migrated from the United States and Canada, where they were first introduced in 1916.
They flourished in the wild of North America, later spreading to South America and Africa.
Although the Harlequin ladybird first reached these shores in 2004, the population has exploded in recent years.
And since arriving in Russia in 2010, it has raced southwards by a staggering 186 miles a year.
A number of myths surrounding ladybirds have been debunked in recent years – although it is true that they can bite, usually when they are hungry.
They are most likely to do so when awoken from a dormant state in the winter as households’ central heating is switched on and, crucially, no food is available for them.
Bites often result in a small bump and a light stinging sensation.
But contrary to popular opinion, black ladybirds are completely harmless to both humans and pets.
In a few documented cases, people have reacted to bites from Harlequins with severe allergic reactions.
How do you get rid of ladybirds?
It is thought the most humane way to rid them from your home is with a simple piece of card and an upturned glass.
Homeowners have also been advised to seal their windows to keep the critters out