Two enormous ladybirds have just crawled out of the vent on my newly-installed timber double glazing. As the windows were made in Poland, this does give me cause for concern, as I do not particularly think the said ladybirds look especially local. (And this is how all those stories about killer wasps start, isn't it, with the "recently arrived" parcel from wherever it is?)
The internet is great, of course, but by the time I'd run downstairs and googled "ladybird identification" the two interlopers had disappeared, hopefully back into the vent.
However, I am aware of the presence in the UK of the Harlequin ladybird, said to be a terrible miscreant which munches up our native ladybirds. But trying to tell the difference between Harlequin and our locals sounds easier in theory than it is in practice. According to the ladybird id guide which I downloaded, the Harlequin can dramatically vary in appearance. A bit like Satan.
Harlequins even come in a pattern called "negative", adding to my sense of their ability to marshall the dark forces of evil. There's a little film about it on the Natural History Museum's website. In fact, Ladybird identification is complex enough to warrant a special British
Entomological Society course on the subject, in April. The only good thing about this is that if I
actually master recognising the little tike, I will have considerably improved my general beetle knowledge.
And if you live in anywhere other than the South-East of England and you find what you think is one of these ladybirds, do report it. Cambridge ladybird experts are waiting to hear from you so that they can monitor the spread.