Alkaloids provide evidence of intraguild predation on native coccinellids by Harmonia axyridis in the field
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Over a period of less than 5 years, Belgium was thoroughly invaded by the multicolored Asian coccinellid, Harmonia axyridis. At the same time, a decline of some native coccinellid species was observed in tree habitats. One hypothesis about the cause of this decline was that it might have been due to intraguild predation (IGP) by H. axyridis. In natural conditions, IGP between coccinellids can be tracked by using defensive compounds. Exogenous alkaloids in H. axyridis were therefore examined by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC–MS), using individuals sampled from lime trees that were also occupied by other species of coccinellids. Harmonia axyridis was the dominant species at all life stages, in terms of both numbers of sites occupied and local abundance. The GC–MS analysis of H. axyridis larvae revealed traces of exogenous alkaloids from 19 of the 20 sites and, in nine of those 19 sites, more than 30% of the larvae analyzed contained exogenous alkaloids. Three alkaloids were detected: adaline from Adalia spp., calvine from Calvia spp. and propyleine from Propylea quatuordecimpunctata. Predation by H. axyridis on two different coccinellid species was also detected in the same larva, reinforcing the status of H. axyridis as a top predator. A generalized linear model indicated that IGP frequency was positively influenced by two variables: the abundance of extraguild and intraguild prey; and the interaction between these two variables. Our results therefore support the hypothesis that IGP by H. axyridis on native coccinellids in tree habitats has led to the decline of several of these species.