Make you Fink on Friday

Here we go again!

Once again man has acted before thinking through the consequences.

Invasive ladybirds wage ‘biological war’ on natives

The Asian Ladybird or harlequin has overpowered native species across Europe

German researchers have discovered the biological keys to the success of an invasive species, wreaking havoc across Europe and the US,

The Asian ladybird was originally brought in to control aphids in greenhouses.

But it has escaped and is increasing uncontrollably across Europe, wiping out native species.

The alien is winning, say scientists, because its body fluid contains a parasite toxic to other insects.

The research is published in the Journal, Science.

Sometimes called the harlequin, the Asian ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) can devour over two hundred aphids a day.

They are seen as a natural and effective solution to the problems posed by these pests in greenhouses.

Killer bugs

But in recent years these imported ladybirds have escaped and rapidly established themselves across Europe and North America at the expense of native species.

In Autumn, the Asian invaders can be a nuisance as they congregate in large groups searching for sheltered locations to hibernate.

They can sometimes cause serious allergic reactions in humans.

The larvae of the Asian ladybird can poison any native who eats it

In this new research, scientists have shown that it is the biological system of the Asian ladybird that gives it the edge when it comes to competing with native species.

The invader has an extremely powerful immune system.

The body fluid of the insect contains a strong antibiotic compound called harmonine as well as antimicrobial peptides. These allow the invasive to fight off pathogens more effectively than natives.

So powerful are the antibiotic elements in the ladybird, that the researchers say they may prove to be promising targets for drug development.

But the most powerful aspects of the ladybird’s biological armoury are tiny fungi called microsporidia.

“They keep them inactive in their own blood, we don’t understand how they do it yet,” said Dr Heiko Vogel from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology,

“But when the other ladybird beetles start to attack the invader’s eggs and larvae, they become active and kill the native ones.”

The ladybird’s immune systems have strong antimicrobial properties

Several studies in recent years have shown the harlequin conquering other ladybirds across Europe. In the UK scientists found that seven of the eight native British species have declined. Similar problems have been encountered in Belgium and Switzerland.

In the UK, researchers are very keen for people to report any sightings of the harlequin. They have just launched a smartphone app that helps people record details of the ladybirds.

Dr Helen Roy from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology near Wallingford, UK, said the German research was “fascinating”. The outlook for native species, however, remained grim.

“The two-spot ladybird, a historically common and widespread species in Britain is suffering the most and experiencing dramatic and rapid declines,” she said.

And the German scientists agree that the Asian ladybird is set to conquer most of the world.

“I don’t see any which way to stop them now – it’s too late in my opinion,”…

 

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Opinion:

Man is too adept at trying to change the course of nature without considering the consequences.

Whether is is well-meaning or just straight ignorance we have to stop meddling with the natural order of things.

If there is money involved, then the consequences don’t even matter, just plough ahead and face the music if necessary.

 

 

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6 responses to this post.

  1. I fear we will never learn. With the increase in global trade alone we have had invasive species causing harm. In my area the zebra mussel is one. But you would think that would stop someone from intentionally bringing a non-native species in, guess not.

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  2. Hubristic humanity fails to learn that nature is a force that is beyond control.

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    • >Alex, man is generally ignorant of nature, particularly the forces it wields and the measures it gives it’s species to ensure survival. Man takes things from one habitat to another without considering the consequences. I read this week an article about Australian flowers to make British gardens more beautiful; what are the consequences? Do some Aussie flowers have a characteristic that nature has instilled that will make them a threat to British gardens? Has anybody bothered to find out? Does anybody care?

      AV

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