Scientific name: Harmonia axyridis
Size: Approx 6 to 8mm
Distribution: Found mainly in the southern half of the UK but spreading rapidly northwards
Months seen: April to October
Life span: Approx 1 year
Habitat: Parks, gardens and anywhere food can be found. Hibernates in buildings
Special features: Harlequin Ladybirds are a recent arrival to the UK. The first ones to land here were seen in 2004, but at the time of writing this (2013) they have since spead to most parts of England and Wales, and they've also been found in the east of Ireland and southern Scotland.
Another common name for this ladybird is the Multi-coloured Ladybug, because the markings of Harlequin Ladybirds are extremely variable - as can be seen from the photos above. Identification is not always easy, but the large size, the orange-red legs and the distinctive black W-shaped marking on the mostly white pronotum (the bit behind the head) are the most distinguishing features.
They're also known as the Asian Ladybird because they were introduced from Asia to Europe for the biocontrol of aphids. Unfortunately they also have an appetite for our native ladybirds and many other invertebrates including butterflies and lacewings.
When they were introduced to America they became the commonest ladybird in less than 25 years as they spread throughout the country. Canada now has a similar spotted invasion. Harlequins hibernate in large groups in buildings in the autumn months and so in America they're also known as 'Halloween Ladybirds'.