Just as Hallowe'en Turns Up, So Does the Beetle; British Wildlife Is under Threat from an outside Invader, and Having Already Conquered Much of North America and Northern Europe the Gardens of Solihull Appear to Be Its Newest Target,

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Byline: Matthew Atkins reports

The humble ladybird, scourge of greenfly and other garden pests is in danger of being wiped out at the hands of its foreign cousin, Harmonia Axyridis.

The Hallowe'en Beetle, as it is more commonly known, gets its name from its pumpkin-like colouring - usually orange with black spots - and its seasonal appearances around late October.

The insect was introduced into the US from Asia in 1988 in an attempt to control pests preying on the continent's crops.

However, it soon became a problem itself as it turned its attention to feeding off the indigenous Ladybird populations.

In less than twenty years since its introduction, the Hallowe'en beetle became the largest Ladybird species in North America.

With a reputation as one of the most itinerant insects on earth, the beetle has gained a firm foothold in Solihull. It is believed to have entered the country from north west Europe.

While individual sightings were recorded in late 2004, large colonies of the voracious predator have now been uncovered in the gardens of Dorridge, Elmsdon, Marston Green and Chelmsley Wood.

"This is likely to have resulted from a combination of human interaction and also natural migratory habits," said Solihull Local Nature reserve Officer, Gary Farmer.

"The insect can easily be transported on potted plants, but is equally capable of flying the width of the English Channel."

The Channel Tunnel may also have provided a route of entry, Mr Farmer suggested.

The threat to native insects comes from the Hallowe'en Beetle's ravenous appetite, which sees it strip plantlife bare of greenfly and other pests. …