Biological Invasions

, Volume 12, Issue 7, pp 2293–2302

Alfalfa fields promote high reproductive rate of an invasive predatory lady beetle

Original Paper


Invasive insect species often may attain high fecundity in agricultural habitats, thereby contributing to their establishment in new geographic regions and their displacement of similar native species. Such may be true for predatory lady beetles (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) that have been introduced to North America in recent decades, raising concerns of adverse impact on native lady beetles. In northern Utah, Coccinella septempunctata L. first appeared in 1991, and is now predominant among lady beetles especially in alfalfa fields. We assessed the suitability of alfalfa fields as breeding habitat for females of C. septempunctata and the native, similarly sized Coccinella transversoguttata richardsoni Brown. The timing and amount of egg production differed significantly between C. septempunctata and C. transversoguttata as populations of aphids increased through spring and early summer. Reproduction by both species conformed to the egg window hypothesis, with populations of the predators producing most eggs before aphid numbers peaked. But consistently among fields and years, females of C. septempunctata produced more eggs, and did so earlier in the spring, than C. transversoguttata females even at low prey density. Furthermore, C. septempunctata females were more successful than females of C. transversoguttata in approaching their maximum body weights and reproductive output as measured in the laboratory under ideal conditions. The strong reproductive success of C. septempunctata may contribute to its displacement of C. transversoguttata in irrigated alfalfa in the generally arid Intermountain West of North America and to its establishment as an abundant species in this region of North America.


Invasive species Reproduction Native species Predatory lady beetles Coccinella septempunctata 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUtah State UniversityLoganUSA
  2. 2.Department of EntomologyUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA

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