Basic and Applied Ecology of the Coccinellidae

July 7-10, 2009 • Richardson Wildlife Foundation, Amboy, IL

In partnership with the Midwest Institute for Biological Control






Jonathan Lundgren,
USDA-ARS, Brookings, SD
John Obrycki,
University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Ted Evans,
Utah State University, Logan, UT
Yukie Kajita,
University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Michael Seagraves,
USDA-ARS, Brookings, SD
Natalia Vandenberg,
USDA-SEL, Beltsville, MD

The coccinellid course explored current basic and applied aspects of taxonomy, nutritional ecology, biochemistry, reproductive biology, and conservation biological control. The course was unit based, and coupled hands-on laboratory/field experiences with lecture-style presentations by world leaders in the field of coccinellid natural history.

Diversity of the Coccinellidae (Vandenberg)

There have been several recent advances in the phylogeny of the Coccinellidae since the application of molecular tools has been applied. The diversity of lady beetles, and historical bases of study of the relatedness of the group was presented. Also, specimens of various groups from around the world were examined by the students to bolster the main ideas of the lecture. Keys to genera were provided, and students were able to peruse the main characters important for identifying specimens.

Nutritional Ecology (Evans, Lundgren, Seagraves)

Although best appreciated as predators of aphids, lady beetles eat a diversity of other foods that have important implications for their behavior, distribution, and impacts on pest populations. The importance of non-prey foods (sugar, plants, pollen, fungus, etc.) to coccinellids was discussed. This lecture was reinforced with a laboratory where students conducted a colorimetric gut analysis (anthrone test) that diagnosed sugar feeding in adult coccinellids, and in a field experiment where coccinellid populations responded to sugar sprays applied to soybean fields. The course was synthesized in the final lecture, where the prey specificity, and their designation as specialists or generalists, of coccinellids was discussed.

Intraguild Predation (Evans, Kajita)

In the recent scientific literature, considerable attention has been given to the importance of IGP and how lady beetles interact with other predators within food webs. A comprehensive lecture on this topic was presented, and a laboratory on the importance of egg surface chemistry to recognition of con-and hetero-specific eggs to hungry lady beetles was conducted.

Chemical ecology (Obrycki)

Coccinellids perceive their environment using volatile and non-volatile chemicals. Progress in understanding the underlying chemistry of aggregation in coccinellids, and the usefulness of these chemicals in augmenting coccinellid numbers within a habitat were discussed. The usefulness of commercially available chemical lures for attracting coccinellids was tested in various habitats at the course.

Reproductive Physiology and Ecology (Kajita, Seagraves)

Lady beetles have been a model group for understanding the effects of various factors on reproduction physiology and realized fecundity of predators. The effects of diet and time on ovariole development were presented in depth, as were some of the ecological determinants of reproductive decision-making. Two laboratory units were conducted to reinforce this topic. First, students dissected the ovaries and examined the egg loads of females fed different dietary treatments. The effects of plant characteristics on oviposition by two lady beetle species were examined in a second assay.