...so says today's Mail, with a story headlined
Vile-smelling foreign ladybirds set to invade homes this winter
As winter approaches, households around the UK will be invaded by a sticky and foul-smelling invader.
Harlequin ladybirds first arrived in Britain from Asia in the summer of 2004 and quickly spread across England and into Wales. They have been spotted as far north as the Orkney Islands.
Now scientists say their numbers across the country have dramatically escalated.
Hey ho. Yes, foreigners... smelly... invading... you can see the kind of imagery they like when it comes to all stories, can't you? I wonder if these tales might give us an insight into the Mail's attitude towards other subjects like immigration. I've argued before that the Mail might not necessarily be opposed to immigration on any political grounds (however much I may suspect it is) and one hypothesis is that these stories fit a certain pattern and provoke a certain emotional reaction: you're being invaded, and you can't do anything about it, and no-one else can see what's going on! It's not just ladybirds, of course; there have even been stories about scary black squirrels invading in the past.
Back in August came another story about ladybirds, this time screaming about a 'population explosion' and an 'invasion'. The terminology sounds a bit familiar in that story as well, doesn't it? Though I think it's worth pointing out they were 'indigenous' British ladybirds and not those dirty furrin harlequins, so that was all right really.
Back in July the ladybird 'invasion' was also on the horizon, but another plague was terrifying Mail readers: scores of evil butterflies, coming over here, drinking our nectar (and almost certainly getting council houses). Again, look at the terminology: invasion! Yet what could be scary about a nice colourful butterfly...?
The invasion – which could be the largest ever – has been sparked by an abundance of plants the species feed on in their native North Africa.
Aaargh! Native North African immigrants! Who's going to think of the cabbage whites?
The harlequin ladybird - an aggressive, toxic invader that has colonised Britain in just four years - is threatening more than 1,000 native species, scientists say.
And they're bloody well breeding like rabbits as well! Or like insects. But anyway. They're killing off 'our' ladybirds! Where are these terrors from? Have they come over with the butterflies from Africa?
The rise of the harlequin - which was introduced from Continental Europe as an 'environmentally friendly' pest controller - has stunned experts who say it is the fastest insect invasion in living memory.
See, we brought them over from Europe, thinking they'd help us out with
jobs like plumbing pest control, but they soon overran us!
And if you look back in the archive to this time almost exactly a year ago, there was a very similar story about the blighters:
Plagues of KILLER ladybirds brought out by the October heatwave
Not just ladybirds. Not just foreign ladybirds. But KILLER foreign ladybirds. Now you know! Now you're scared! Now it's time to run to the hills!
It's all a bit of fun really, but it does illustrate a type of approach towards a Mail story: the emphasis on invasion; the fact that we're powerless to stop it; the foreign plague; the infection by aliens; the killing-off of the 'indigenous' population; the well-intentioned policies which have led to destruction.
It's perfectly possible, for the reasons I've outlined, that the Mail isn't anti these ladybirds, as it may well not be anti immigrants as a statement of policy. Perhaps there is something else going on: the creation of scare stories which imply a terrible threat (even though this supposed threat of imminent disaster carries on from year to year, without ever actually resulting in a catastrophe); neat little constructions that tap into the fear and paranoia part of the brain and give you a little thrill, a little jolt, while you're reading the paper.
Which is all very well. But when you're talking about human beings, rather than ladybirds, it's a little bit more serious.
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