The Harlequin Ladybird Survey
Harlequin ladybird elytra
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Joe Burling

Position

MSc student

Organisation

University of Hull

Ladybird research keywords

Evolutionary genetics, invasive species, harlequin ladybird, natural enemies.

Description of work

Successful biological invaders often display enhanced performance following the introduction into a new region. A possible explanation for this phenomenon is the release from co-evolved natural enemies that are left behind in the native range, a process known as the enemy release hypothesis.  Despite defensive mechanisms (aposematic colouring, reflex bleeding) the harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) does have natural enemies. My project aims to determine whether the success of the harlequin as an invasive species can be explained by its release from natural enemies. I focus on male-killing bacteria. These are maternally inherited endosymbionts that selectively cause mortality in male hosts early in development. Infection from these bacteria are known to occur in the ladybirds native range.  In this project, I will be investigating the prevalence of male-killing bacteria in harlequins that have arrived in the UK. Another focus of my project is the parasitoid wasp Dinocampus coccinellae (Braconidae). Individuals are currently being sequenced at a mitochondrial locus to determine phylogenetic relationships between UK and Asian D. coccinellae infecting both harlequins and seven-spot ladybirds.

7-spot ladybird parasitized by Dinocampus coccinellae

Joe is into parasites. This ladybird has a problem with Dinocampus coccinellae

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