Main content area

Do microsporidia function as “biological weapon” for Harmonia axyridis under natural conditions?

Gegner, Tobias, Otti, Oliver, Tragust, Simon, Feldhaar, Heike
Insect science 2015 v.22 no.3 pp. 353-359
Coccinella septempunctata, Harmonia axyridis, Microsporidia, adults, biodiversity, death, hemolymph, indigenous species, introduced species, invasive species, larvae, predation, sampling
Invasive alien species, such as the multicoloured Asian ladybird Harmonia axyridis, are often regarded as major drivers of biodiversity loss. Therefore understanding which characteristics or mechanisms contribute to their invasive success is important. Here the role of symbiotic microsporidia in the hemolymph of H. axyridis was investigated in the context of intraguild predation between wild‐caught H. axyridis and the native ladybird species Coccinella septempunctata. The microsporidia were recently discussed to contribute to the unpalatability of Harmonia for other coccinellids during intraguild predation and to function as “biological weapons”. In the present study, visual detection of microsporidia in hemolymph samples revealed that 73.5 % of H. axyridis were infected. Intraguild predation experiments between larvae of the two species showed a significant competitive advantage for H. axyridis, even against larger larvae of C. septempunctata. Adult C. septempunctata always killed and fed on H. axyridis larvae. However only 11.4 % (4 of 47) of C. septempunctata that fed on infected H. axyridis died within 4 months. In contrast to previous studies this suggests that microsporidia or harmonine, the chemical defense compound of H. axyridis, do not lead to death of C. septempunctata preying on larvae of H. axyridis. Instead our results support the idea that competitive advantage during intraguild predation greatly facilitates the success of H. axyridis and that this may help this highly invasive species to outcompete native species. The impact of microsporidia on Harmonia itself as well as on interspecific interactions require further studies.