, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 7-14

Chemical defence in ladybird beetles (Coccinellidae). I. Distribution of coccinelline and individual variation in defence in 7-spot ladybirds (Coccinella septempunctata)

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Summary

7-spot ladybirds secrete alkaloid (coccinelline)-rich fluid (reflex blood) from leg joints as a defence mechanism against predators. A technique is described that enables the collection and accurate quantification of reflex blood produced, and the amount of coccinelline therein. Coccinelline was found distributed throughout the body, although concentrated in the reflex blood. Reflex blood was collected from a large set of beetles at several time points. Significant variation was found among beetles in the amount of reflex blood produced (for males and for females corrected for body weight) and the coccinelline concentration of the reflex blood. The results are discussed in relation to automimicry and the maintenance of variation through energy trade-offs. The relationships between tendency to aggregate, ability to reflex bleed and the possession of aposematic coloration are also considered.