The first atlas of Britain and Ireland's ladybirds is the result of a six year research project by the UK Ladybird Survey, building on data collected over the last two centuries. It maps all 47 species of Ladybirds in Britain and Ireland, building on thousands of observations from volunteer recorders. The earliest record in the atlas is that of the rare 13-spot ladybird, recorded near Oxford in 1819. The most commonly recorded species, with 27000 records, is the 7-spot ladybird, closely followed by the newly arrived Harlequin ladybird with over 25000 records.
Within the atlas there is a detailed analysis of ladybird observations from the last twenty years. The results show that ten ladybird species have significantly declined in this period, whilst five have increased. Distribution maps are provided for each species together with a wide range of supplementary information covering recording techniques, species identification, ladybird parasites, historical aspects, and 194 colour photographs.
Author Dr Helen Roy said, "The atlas data enable us to address many key questions on the fascinating life histories of our 47 ladybird species. As well as being charismatic and popular insects, ladybirds have an important role as indicators of our changing environment."
Declining species include the 14-spot and 10-spot ladybirds, which are principally greenfly (aphid) feeding ladybirds coveted by gardeners. Species doing well, and expanding their geographical range, include the Pine ladybird and the mildew-feeding Orange ladybird. In the past the Orange ladybird was a rare species. However it has thrived in recent years, partly by adapting to life on additional types of tree.
Author Dr Peter Brown said, "Ladybirds have captured the imagination of people for centuries. When the on-line UK Ladybird Survey was launched in 2005 we could never have imagined that tens of thousands of people would contribute records. This staggering response has enabled us to assess changes to the distribution of ladybirds over time. In addition, recorders' meticulous observations provide inspiration for new research directions. We hope that people will continue to contribute to this long-term study."
Dr Roy added, "Ladybird interactions with natural enemies, particularly parasites, are intriguing and we hope that this atlas will encourage further recording of both ladybirds and also the natural enemies associated with them."
Roger Hawkins, author of the Ladybirds of Surrey and the foreword to the new atlas, said, "The new Ladybird Atlas of Britain and Ireland offers so much more than distribution maps. Using a mix of photographs and text it helps with the identification of all ladybird species, from the largest to the very smallest, and in all their stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult. There is information on life histories, behaviour, host plants and prey, and details of the enemies of ladybirds, especially their parasites. The atlas is published at a critical moment in the story of ladybirds in Britain and Ireland as our native species, so carefully mapped and studied over recent decades, must now compete with the alien Harlequin ladybird."
The atlas author team included Dr Helen Roy from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Dr Peter Brown from Anglia Ruskin University, Dr Remy Poland from Clifton College and wildlife enthusiast and ladybird recorder Robert Frost.