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Keywords:

  • aposematism;
  • Parus major ;
  • great tits;
  • warning colour;
  • colour pattern;
  • polymorphism;
  • Coleoptera;
  • Coccinellidae;
  • Passeriformes;
  • Paridae

Abstract

Previous studies have suggested that spotted patterns are important in the protection of ladybirds against attack by avian predators. Nevertheless, these studies were based on the comparison of several ladybird species differing in colouration, but also in other traits (e.g., chemical protection). We presented natural as well as artificial colour modifications (using brown, red, and black paint) of the ladybird Harmonia axyridis (Pallas) (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) – an invasive alien species for Europe – to an avian predator, the great tit, Parus major L. (Passeriformes: Paridae). All forms were considered to be equal in size, but differed in colouration and in the presence of spots. The chemical protection was equal except for one form. The birds displayed strong avoidance of all forms with red and black colouration; beetles with artificially removed red colouration (painted brown) were attacked more often. The beetles painted brown with black spots were slightly better protected than the painted beetles without spots. We can sum up that spots are of some importance in the protection of ladybirds; nevertheless, red and black colouration is the main part of the visual signal.