Avoidance of a generalist entomopathogenic fungus by the ladybird, Coccinella septempunctata


  • Editor: Philippe Lemanceau

Correspondence: Helen E. Roy, NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Wallingford, Crowmarsh Gifford, Oxfordshire OX10 8BB, UK. Tel.: +1491 692 252; fax: +44 01491 692424; e-mail: hele@ceh.ac.uk


Fungal entomopathogens are ubiquitous within the environment and susceptible insects are predicted to be under strong selection pressure to detect and avoid virulent isolates. Beauveria bassiana is an entomopathogenic fungus with a wide host range including coccinellids. Seven-spot ladybirds, Coccinella septempunctata, overwinter predominantly in leaf litter and B. bassiana is one of their major mortality factors during winter in temperate regions. Behavioural assays were conducted to assess the ability of adult C. septempunctata to avoid lethal densities of B. bassiana conidia in soil or on leaves. Further assays considered avoidance by C. septempunctata of mycosed (B. bassiana) C. septempunctata cadavers compared with uninfected C. septempunctata cadavers or in vitro B. bassiana. Treatments in any bioassays entirely avoided by C. septempunctata were regarded as censored data, to overcome the difficulties associated with zeros in log-ratio analyses. Male and female C. septempunctata avoided contact with leaf surfaces and soil inoculated with B. bassiana and mycosed cadavers. The ability of C. septempunctata to detect and avoid B. bassiana conidia is an adaptation that undoubtedly increases survival and ultimately fitness. We predict that such behavioural responses are widespread and driven by the high cost of fungal infection to a host.