Beware of the ladybird infestation

Te Karaka and Matokitoki Valley areas.

Te Karaka and Matokitoki Valley areas.

Harlequin Ladybirds have become a problem in some parts of the district, noteably Te Karaka and Matokitoki Valley. People who see them have been asked to collect them, photograph them and send the pictures to the Ministry of Primary Industries. They have many different colour combinations, with a distinctive M-shaped mark at the back of their heads. Picture by John McLean

Infestations of harlequin ladybirds in the Gisborne district could pose a threat to the horticulture and viticulture industries, says Gisborne District Council environmental and science manager Lois Easton.

Ladybird infestations have been discovered in Te Karaka and Matokitoki Valley areas.

“Originally from Asia, the invasive species was first reported to the Ministry of Primary Industries in Auckland in 2016 and has since been found in the Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Taranaki regions,” Ms Easton said.

“Harlequin ladybirds are a potential threat to the horticulture industry. They feed on pip fruit, causing blemishes on the fruit.

“They are known to cluster in bunches of grapes before harvest, resulting in tainted juice,” she said.

“They also pose a nuisance to humans when they swarm in buildings and houses. They can bite and cause allergic rhinoconjunctivitis.”

Ms Easton said the ladybirds would eat other insect species and compete for food resources.

“They pose a risk to the biodiversity of our ecosystem. They will eat native ladybirds and also swarm in beehives over winter, requiring manual removal.

“Due to the highly variable nature of harlequin ladybirds, they can be hard to distinguish from other ladybird species.

“The M-shaped markings between the head and abdomen, and two small bumps on the rear of the back, are their identifying features,” she said.

“The larvae and pupae have a spikier skin than common spotted ladybirds.”

Ms Easton said anyone who finds harlequin ladybirds should collect the specimen, photograph it and contact MPI’s free 24-hour pest and disease hotline on 0800 809 966.

“MPI are tracking their spread and can provide information to growers about the insect and its management.”

Infestations of harlequin ladybirds in the Gisborne district could pose a threat to the horticulture and viticulture industries, says Gisborne District Council environmental and science manager Lois Easton.

Ladybird infestations have been discovered in Te Karaka and Matokitoki Valley areas.

“Originally from Asia, the invasive species was first reported to the Ministry of Primary Industries in Auckland in 2016 and has since been found in the Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Taranaki regions,” Ms Easton said.

“Harlequin ladybirds are a potential threat to the horticulture industry. They feed on pip fruit, causing blemishes on the fruit.

“They are known to cluster in bunches of grapes before harvest, resulting in tainted juice,” she said.

“They also pose a nuisance to humans when they swarm in buildings and houses. They can bite and cause allergic rhinoconjunctivitis.”

Ms Easton said the ladybirds would eat other insect species and compete for food resources.

“They pose a risk to the biodiversity of our ecosystem. They will eat native ladybirds and also swarm in beehives over winter, requiring manual removal.

“Due to the highly variable nature of harlequin ladybirds, they can be hard to distinguish from other ladybird species.

“The M-shaped markings between the head and abdomen, and two small bumps on the rear of the back, are their identifying features,” she said.

“The larvae and pupae have a spikier skin than common spotted ladybirds.”

Ms Easton said anyone who finds harlequin ladybirds should collect the specimen, photograph it and contact MPI’s free 24-hour pest and disease hotline on 0800 809 966.

“MPI are tracking their spread and can provide information to growers about the insect and its management.”

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