, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 149-152

Social feeding in ladybird beetles: adaptive significance and mechanism

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Young larvae of Adalia bipunctata search an area more intensively when exposed to the odour from other larvae feeding on aphids than when exposed only to the odour of aphids. In an olfactometer young larvae were significantly attracted either to the odour of crushed aphids or larvae feeding on aphids, but not to that of aphids, larvae, larvae plus aphids or larvae feeding on an artificial diet. That is, the change in searching behaviour appears in response to a volatile released by aphids when attacked. The odour released by crushed aphids is made up entirely of aphid alarm pheromone, β-farnesene. It is likely that the adaptive significance of this response is that it increases the ability of larvae to locate larvae that have already caught prey. By sharing the aphid kill of another larva it is likely that a first instar ladybird larva greatly increases its probability of surviving to the next instar. It is suggested that this social feeding is facilitated by egg clustering, which also may additionally account for why aphidophagous ladybirds lay their eggs in clusters.

Received 28 February 2000; accepted 24 March 2000