Plagues of ladybirds have been spotted around West Sussex as they seek shelter in warm houses.
Residents have recorded strange scenes of large numbers of the bugs climbing over windows, furniture and foliage in gardens.
According to Ecological Contractor for Buglife, Rory Dimond, most of the ladybirds in question are Harlequin ladybirds, an invasive species from Asia.
He said they have spread rapidly across the UK since 2004, after they were introduced to Holland to control aphids.
“The ladybirds pose no danger to humans however, large gatherings can give off a chemical smell and in centrally-heated houses they may be woken up from hibernation by the warmth and fly around the house,” Mr Dimond said.
“Although it is not a native species, they are now so abundant that killing the ladybirds will have next to no impact and we do not advocate spraying them with pesticides.
“It is best to remove the ladybirds humanely if you can using a glass and card.”
Readers from across West Sussex have taken to our Facebook page to report the influx, many reporting they can leave a yellow stain on furniture.
One reader wrote: “I have had lots arrive in my garden in Horsham today. Some on my washing and lots on the outside of my patio doors. A few have managed to get in the house when leaving a door or window slightly open.”
Michael Abrahams wrote: “Absolutely! We’re at Walberton. The bugs are all outside but running up and down walls, windows and drainpipes, plus flying back and forth. They don’t usually arrive until early Spring. A friend says they also have them in south-west France.”
Gina Vaughan added: “Loads over the house, in Littlehampton.”
Louise Taylor responded: “We are being invaded by ladybugs here in our home in Chichester! I’ve had to brush them out of our window cracks.”
Mr Dimond said their influx into houses had become an annual phenomenon.
“As winter is drawing in, the ladybirds are seeking sheltered spots to hibernate away from the cold,” he said.
“They particularly like houses and outbuildings and have a habit of gathering together in suitable areas.”
Although the colour of ladybirds may vary, Mr Dimond said they are all of the same species. If people have spotted Harlequin ladybirds, they can submit a record to the UK ladybird survey to help record the spread of the species across the country: http://www.ladybird-survey.org/
For more information about Harlequin ladybirds visit www.buglife.org.uk/bugs-and-habitats/harlequin-ladybird