Ladybirds and harlequins

Ladle bug.
English names: The seven spot ladybug (America), the seven spot ladybird (other English speaking countries)*
Chinese name: 七星瓢蟲qī xīng piáo chóng (Lit: ‘seven star ladle bug’, ladle 瓢 because of the shape)
Family: Coccinellidae (瓢蟲科piáo chóng kē, the ladybird family)
Genus: Coccinella (‘scarlet’,瓢蟲屬piáo chóng shǔ)*
Latin name: Coccinella septempunctata (septem = ‘seven’ and punctus = ‘spot’)  

The ladybird eats aphids and other insects that can damage plants, and so is a favourite with farmers and gardeners.

Living in rural China, many bugs are surprisingly familiar, like the seven spot ladybird. However they also have these massive (2-3 times the size) variously patterned monster ladybirds, called harlequins in English and the boring ‘variegated’ ladybird in Chinese.

Variegated.
English names: Harlequin ladybird, Asian ladybeetle, Halloween ladybeetle (America only)
Chinese name: 異色瓢蟲 (异虫) yì sè piáo chóng
Family: Coccinellidae (瓢蟲科piáo chóng kē, the ladybird family)
Genus: Coccinella (‘scarlet’,瓢虫屬piáo chóng shǔ)*
Latin name: Harmonia axyridis  

It has one of the most varied appearances of any species in the world, appearing in all kinds of colour and pattern combinations. And apart from the colours, the other way to tell it apart from the regular seven spot ladybird is that the harlequin is at least twice the size.

Native to Asia, it’s an invasive species in Europe and North America, having a terrible effect on other ladybird species, not least because it eats their eggs and larva.

I later found out harlequin ladybirds are now common in the UK, having been introduced 15 odd years ago, but that was after I left.

The harlequin is named for the chequered-costumed jester of late Medieval Italy.

小丑 = clown, 哈利昆 is just a transliteration.

Both species of ladybird protect themselves by playing dead, and can secrete a foul liquid from their legs which makes them taste unappealing, you may see this if they get stressed out when you handle them. Or try to eat them.

* Entomologists prefer the name lady beetles as though they’re insects they are not ‘true bugs’. A true bug is one that belongs to the Hemiptera order of insects, all of whom share similar ‘sucking mouthparts’: This includes aphids, cicadas, bed bugs, and shield bugs, so really not that many families.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.