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Alien pods invade. Town calm, oblivious.

click it to big itOfficially alien, inert but somehow threatening, Satan's Smarties have been popping up all over. Once you've got your eye in, you realise that they've been hiding in plain sight. Cunning. Looking like larger-than-life models of microscopically disgusting nano-life, they are the pupal or chrysalis stage of a ladybird. Not just any old ladybird, though: the Harlequin ladybird - an invasive species that arrived from the continent in south-east England in 2004 (its range expanded north from continental Europe as the climate warmed) and has already reached the Midlands and Cornwall.

It's voracious, gorging itself on blackfly and eating other ladybirds out of house and home. It's spread has been mirrored by a fall in number of some of our native ladybirds. (Native ladybirds have Union Jack tattoos on the underside of their wing-cases, to help with recognition.)

Ecological dilemma: let nature take its course, or trample them underfoot and make ladybird wine?

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