Cormac MacConnell: A sting in the tale of Harlequin invasion

Ye will agree with me that the sight of a ladybird in the garden is one of the most beautiful images in nature.

I always drop down to my hunkers, to closely observe the strikingly vivid visitors to the shrubs and flower.

They look, like kingfishers maybe, to be infinitely more exotic and charismatic than any other native insect. They somehow illuminate all their surroundings when you see them. They are truly spectacular, bright, delicately gorgeous, surpassing the beauty of even the most luxuriant flowers they alight upon. And that, for sure, is another pure truth.

But the next time you spot a ladybird in your garden, and that will be any day now, I would earnestly counsel all of you, from this time forth, to hunker down over them, like myself nowadays, not just to admire them but to accurately count the black spots on their scarlet backs.

And, my friends, if there are more than seven spots on your ladybird, then it is likely you are observing a deadly cannibalistic harlequin ladybird which has recently invaded England, from Devon all the way up to the Shetland Islands. And is spreading like wildfire on a Connemara mountain, devouring all our own native ladybirds, right, left, and centre, and is the fastest-spreading invasive species to have ever attacked the British Isles, of which we are an integral part in environmental terms at least.

It is a frequently under-reported reality across all the scales of living, that what happens in England today, invariably happens in this Republic a few months later.

Watch the news bulletins, and the point is driven home every single day. They have just had a general election for example, and ours is now only months away. Their social and economic issues, most relating to health and education and housing matters, are rapidly replicated here in a quite frightening fashion, within weeks or months.

And the brutal truth today is that England has been totally colonised by the harlequin ladybird, and there is much worse to come.

I note from the learned Ecological Entomology Journal, and from related sources, that invasive species such as the harlequin ladybird and, earlier, Japanese knotweed, have cost our neighbours over two billion pounds annually to cope with. That is a startling cost indeed.

England’s native little ladybirds, which, like ours, are marked with either two or seven spots on their backs, have been decimated by the invading cannibals which, from the photograph I saw, have upwards of 20 black spots on their cannibalistic backs, so you will know one if you spot one atop your rose bush.

But that is not the real threat at all.

Think of poor John the Baptist, often called the Precurser, and that is the role given to the harlequins by many of the concerned experts coping with the British invasion which for sure, like everything else, will impact soon on us.

You see, the facts are that everywhere the harlequin ladybirds go, they are rapidly followed by appalling hordes of deadly bee-eating Asian hornets. And my spies report to me that these lethal hornets have now reached France, and are eyeing the White Cliffs of Dover, even as you read this.

They will be in England any week now and, after that, for sure, they and the cannibal ladybirds will arrive in Wexford or Dun Laoghaire within a matter of months.

Our bee population, so crucial for life generally, is already under threat from mite infestation, and the last thing we can afford is an invasion of hungry hornets. And there again, is the pure truth.

I regret having to convey dire warnings of this nature on a summer day, but forewarned is forearmed, and I have forwarded a copy of this epistle to a contact in the Department of Agriculture, in the hope that, just once in our history, we will be able to successfully repel invaders from England.

Let us hope and pray.

And count the spots on the backsides of all ladybirds spotted in the garden.


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