Development and application of molecular gut-content analysis to detect aphid and coccinellid predation by Harmonia axyridis (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) in Italy

Gabriele Rondoni, Kacie J. Athey, James D. Harwood, Eric Conti, Carlo Ricci, John J. Obrycki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Despite their positive effect in reducing pest populations, exotic generalist predators sometimes become invasive and contribute to the displacement of indigenous species in the same trophic level. Although laboratory experiments have linked intraguild predation (IGP) to these interactions, field evidence and quantification of IGP are still lacking for most systems. The recent establishment of the exotic Harmonia axyridis (Pallas) (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) in Italy raises concern about the detrimental effect that the ladybird could have on native coccinellids. Here we assessed, under laboratory conditions, the acceptability and suitability of eggs of 2 native ladybirds, Adalia bipunctata L. and Oenopia conglobata (L.), as prey items for H. axyridis larvae. Then we developed primers for molecular gut-content analysis to detect predation by H. axyridis on the 2 ladybirds and on the aphid Eucallipterus tiliae L. Species-specific 16S primers were developed for the 3 species and laboratory feeding trials were conducted to quantify the rate of prey DNA breakdown in the gut of H. axyridis. Moreover, to field evaluate primers, H. axyridis 4th instars (n = 132) were systematically collected from linden trees in northern Italy and screened for the presence of prey DNA. Seventy-three percent and 7% of field collected H. axyridis were positive for aphid and coccinellid DNA, respectively. Predation upon aphid and A. bipunctata was lower than predicted if density dependent consumption was expected, while predation upon O. conglobata was significantly higher. Here, we provided the first evidence of IGP among feral populations of H. axyridis and indigenous ladybird beetles, occurring in Italy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)719-730
Number of pages12
JournalInsect Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences.


  • Adalia bipunctata
  • Biological control
  • Eucallipterus tiliae; intraguild interactions
  • Nontarget effect
  • Oenopia conglobata

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)
  • Insect Science


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