1. To elucidate the factors responsible for the evolution of host specialisation, prey capture performance in hatchlings of two sibling ladybird species, Harmonia yedoensis and H. axyridis, feeding on four aphid species was examined. Harmonia yedoensis is a specialist predator that preys only on pine aphids in the field, whereas H. axyridis is a generalist predator with a broad prey range.
2. In H. yedoensis, sibling cannibalism in each clutch was intense and predation against pine aphid as well as other aphid species was moderately successful. In contrast, the predation success rate of H. axyridis against pine aphid was quite low.
3. Moreover, it was experimentally shown that increased maternal investment enhanced prey capture performance against pine aphid in H. yedoensis but not in H. axyridis hatchlings, despite their increased body size due to maternal investment.
4. In addition, morphological and behavioural analysis showed that hatchlings of H. yedoensis had longer legs and a larger head capsule size and could walk faster than H. axyridis.
5. In summary, the interactive effects between a large amount of maternal investment and morphological specialisation of the first instars may enable H. yedoensis to capture the pine aphid efficiently, a highly elusive prey for ladybird hatchlings. The ability of H. yedoensis to utilise the three other aphid species in addition to the pine aphid suggests that a trade-off in prey capture performance is not the main factor in the host specialisation of H. yedoensis.