This cute little fella turns out to be a Harlequin Ladybird larva. They are non-native to the UK and seem to be out-competing our native varieties. This one was spotted at Credenhill Park Wood, just past the carpark, sitting on a leaf bold as brass. Ladybirds are very useful to gardeners and farmers as they are ferocious devourers of aphids and other pests. You may be familiar with the rhyme:
- Ladybird, ladybird fly away home,
- Your house is on fire and your children are gone,
- All except one,
- And her name is Ann,
- And she hid under the baking pan.
There are several variants to this. It probably stems from the burning of stubble after the harvest. The flying insects would be able to flee, but the pupae form (Ann, or sometimes Nan) would have to stay put and hope that the pupal casing would protect it. It is considered unlucky to kill a ladybird, so it would seem prudent to warn them of any fires being set. The Harlequin Ladybird Survey has a website with more information about this invader and various ways of submitting your own findings to them.