Lady beetle diet influences its effectiveness as biocontrol agent

Jan 11, 2013 by Sharon Durham
Lady beetle diet influences its effectiveness as biocontrol agent
ARS scientists are investigating how the diet of a lady beetle diet alters its feeding patterns in hopes of making them a better biological control of such pests as aphids and the Colorado potato beetle. Photo by Jonathan Lundgren

By examining what lady beetles eat, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists are learning more about the movement of these beneficial insects in farm fields—and whether they'll actively feed on crop pests.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) entomologist Jonathan Lundgren at the agency's North Central Agricultural Research Laboratory in Brookings, S.D., and former ARS entomologist Michael Seagraves were part of a team of ARS and university scientists that examined how a lady beetle's diet alters its feeding patterns and physiology. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.

Lady beetles are deployed as biological controls of like and Colorado potato beetles. Understanding the feeding behavior of these important will help researchers find ways to most effectively use the lady beetles as .

In laboratory feeding tests, the researchers found that a lady beetle species called Coleomegilla maculata consumes two to three times more plant tissue after being fed a prey-only diet than after being fed a mixed diet of prey and . This suggests that plant material is providing some key nutrients lacking in prey-only diets. It is important to recognize that non-prey foods contain different nutrients than insect prey, and that beetles that are fed mixed diets are often healthier that those fed only on prey, according to Lundgren.

In a followup study, Lundgren and his colleagues found that sugar consumption by lady beetles allows females to survive and produce more eggs than those denied this sweet treat. Foods like sugar and pollen are important components of their diets, and it is thought that lady beetles rely heavily on sugar resources in the field. In this study, Lundgren and Seagraves applied sugar sprays to soybeans and quantified the frequency of sugar feeding by analyzing the gut contents of common lady beetles in South Dakota, Maryland and Kentucky.

According to Seagraves, all the tested lady beetles regularly consumed sugar-like nectar in soybean fields, even when it wasn't applied as a supplement. However, the sugar-sprayed plots had more lady beetles than the untreated plots. This research makes the case that sugar-feeding is very important for lady beetle populations in cropland and suggests a possible way to help maintain beneficial species in agroecosystems.

The research was published in Biocontrol and in Biocontrol Science and Technology.

Explore further: Stanford researchers rethink 'natural' habitat for wildlife

More information: Read more about this research in the January 2013 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Barcoding insects as a way to track and control them

May 02, 2012

Barcodes may bring to mind the sales tags and scanners found in supermarkets and other stores. But U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists are using "DNA barcodes" to monitor insects that damage crops ...

Battling insects that cause trouble in paradise

Feb 27, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- We aren't the only species that like tropical vacation spots. Japanese beetles plague parts of the Azores, and Oriental fruit flies infest some of French Polynesia. But U.S. Department of ...

Spying on Corn Rootworm Predators Nightlife

Oct 31, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Agricultural Research Service (ARS) entomologist Jonathan G. Lundgren, while exploring corn fields at night, has found a very different group of predators than the ones that feed during the ...

UGA studies explain spread of invasive ladybugs

Apr 01, 2011

A University of Georgia researcher studying invasive ladybugs has developed new models that help explain how these insects have spread so quickly and their potential impacts on native species.

Recommended for you

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

16 hours ago

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Apr 18, 2014

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

PPihkala
not rated yet Jan 12, 2013
Who knew that ladybeetles have a sweet tooth?

More news stories

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.