PLAGUES of poisonous and cannibalistic ladybirds are making their way into homes across the News Shopper area.

The brightly-coloured harlequin ladybird will bite humans when hungry – leaving behind an itchy lump.

As the winter draws in, central heating systems wake up harlequin ladybirds hiding in homes and if food is not available, experts say they will go for human flesh.

The mini-mites will also wreak havoc around the home, as they produce a foul-smelling toxic chemical that leaves a yellow stain on wallpaper and curtains.

But the picture is even bleaker for the county’s 46 species of ladybird, as the harlequin devours rival insects and has already wiped out 30 per cent of Britain’s two-spotted species.

The north Kent area is particularly populous with the insects, as their population is well-established in Europe and many have arrived in the area via the Eurostar at Ebbsfleet International.

In recent years, their population has boomed across the capital as they have travelled into Britain on flowers imported from the continent that are sold at London markets.

The Harlequin Ladybird Survey website has been cataloguing sightings of the mini-beast since it first arrived in this country in 2004.

Experts on the website say: “When hungry, harlequin ladybirds will bite humans in their search for something edible.

“Ladybirds in houses, woken from dormancy by central heating, may bite people as there is no food available.

“The bites usually produce a small bump and sting slightly.

“There are a few documented cases of people having a severe allergic reaction to harlequin ladybirds.”

As temperatures continue to drop this weekend, the harlequins are now heading inside houses to escape the cold.

Have you seen a harlequin ladybird in your garden or home? Get in touch and send your pictures to the newsroom.

Harlequin ladybirds: a fact file

  • Harlequin ladybirds are most commonly found on trees such as sycamore, maple or lime but also live in coniferous woodland.
  • The first harlequin ladybird arrived in the UK in 2004. Some flew across the English Channel from Europe but others arrived on flowers imported from the continent.
  • A female harlequin ladybird will lay more than 1,000 eggs at a time.
  • The harlequin ladybird’s diet includes the eggs of butterflies and moths, other ladybirds, pollen and nectar.
  • Birds that feed while flying, such as the swift and swallow, are immune to the defensive chemical released by harlequin ladybirds.