Invasive harlequin ladybirds are cannibals and are eating their native British cousins, DNA analysis has shown.
Research on the contents of the guts of the harlequin larvae across Europe revealed the species, which mainly eats aphids, were also preying on other insects including 10-spot and 2-spot ladybirds.
The harlequin, or harmonia axyridis, is a larger and more voracious species than native British ladybirds. It spread to the UK after being imported from East Asia to Europe for commercial pest control of crops.
Research has previously shown that seven out of eight UK ladybird species studied had declined over five years following the arrival of the harlequin in 2004.
The harlequin is now the second most commonly found ladybird species in the UK.
Experts are concerned that the harlequin species is responsible for the declines of other ladybirds by competing with them for food and habitat, and by preying on them.
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