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Harlequin ladybirds escape enemies while native species succumb
Date:12/4/2013

) for natural enemies over four years, from populations across southern England in areas first invaded by the harlequin ladybird between 2004 and 2009.

The study showed that about one in ten 7-spot ladybirds were parasitized by Dinocampus coccinellae whereas less than one in 100 harlequin ladybirds were parasitized The other common parasites that the team examined also favoured the native species of ladybird over the alien harlequin. The team found no evidence that the close proximity of harlequin ladybirds detracted the parasites from attacking the native species.

Paper lead author Richard Comont who carried out the research as a PhD student at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and is now Data Monitoring Officer at the BumbleBee Conservation Trust, said, "It's really exciting to find that native parasitoid species are attacking the harlequin, but they're only doing so in really small numbers the native 7-spot ladybird is almost 11 times more likely to be eaten than the harlequin. That really shows in part why the harlequin is increasing so quickly there's nothing holding it back."

Co-author Dr Helen Roy from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology said, "The presence of the harlequin ladybird in Britain has given us the opportunity to test the enemy release hypothesis, a key ecological theory. Our work clearly demonstrates how some alien invasive species such as the harlequin ladybird can escape predators and parasites allowing them to successfully and rapidly spread across a country such as the UK."

Dr Roy added, "We need people to keep sending in records to the UK Ladybird Survey and we would be delighted to hear about any sightings of parasitized ladybirds. Every observation helps us to unravel the story of this alien invader and more broadly to our understanding of invasion biology."


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Contact: Barnaby Smith
bpgs@ceh.ac.uk
44-079-202-95384
Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Source:Eurekalert  

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