The spread of the harlequin ladybird Harmonia axyridis (Coleoptera: coccinellidae) in Europe and its effects on native ladybirds
thesisposted on 2023-08-30, 13:40 authored by Peter M. J. Brown
Native to Asia, Harmonia axyridis (Pallas) (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) is an invasive non-native ladybird in Europe and North America, where it was widely introduced as a biological control agent of aphids and coccids. There were three main objectives of this study: firstly, to investigate the spread and distribution of H. axyridis in Europe from the start of the invasion process; secondly, to study its ecology in Great Britain; and thirdly, to examine its effects on native ladybirds in Britain. In Europe, collaborations with a network of scientists allowed the collation of H. axyridis occurrence data from across the continent. In Great Britain, a web-based public survey (www.harlequin-survey.org) was used, leading to the receipt of over 10,000 verified records of H. axyridis between 2004 and 2008. National land cover data enabled the habitats used by H. axyridis to be identified across Great Britain. These datasets were analysed in order to study the spread and ecology of H. axyridis in Europe and Britain. Fieldwork over a three year period (2006 to 2008) was carried out to examine changes in ladybird species assemblages during the invasion phase of H. axyridis in eastern England. Laboratory work was conducted to detect intraguild predation by H. axyridis, through PCR analyses of gut contents of field-collected ladybirds. In Europe, H. axyridis has spread since 2001 at the rate of approximately 200km yr-1. It has become established in at least 23 European countries. The established range extends from Norway in the north to southern France in the south, and from Ukraine in the east to Great Britain in the west. In the first five years of establishment H. axyridis spread north through Britain at the rate of 105km yr-1 and west at the rate of 145km yr-1. Evidence of the production of two generations per year was found, giving H. axyridis an advantage over most native ladybirds in Britain. Although H. axyridis was very common in urban habitats, it increasingly used semi-natural habitats. In addition, whilst the species was most common on deciduous trees, it was increasingly found on herbaceous plants. Aceraceae, Rosaceae and Malvaceae were the dominant plant families used by H. axyridis, especially for breeding. In eastern England H. axyridis increased from 0.1% to 40% of total ladybirds in three years, whilst native aphidophagous ladybirds declined from 84% to 41% of total ladybirds in the same period. Three species in particular experienced declines: Adalia 2-punctata, Coccinella 7-punctata and Propylea 14-punctata. Harmonia axyridis was the most abundant species by the end of the study. Detection of intraguild predation by one coccinellid on another, in the field in Europe, was shown for the first time using PCR techniques: A. 2-punctata DNA was detected in the gut of one of 112 field-collected H. axyridis. Harmonia axyridis has spread very quickly since 2001 and has become one of the most widely distributed coccinellids in Europe. Populations of native aphidophagous ladybirds were negatively affected by the arrival of H. axyridis, partly through intraguild predation.
InstitutionAnglia Ruskin University
- Accepted version