An instance of necrophagy in adult Harmonia axyridis (Pallas, 1773) (Col., Coccinellidae)

P.F. Whitehead

Moor Leys, Little Comberton, Pershore, Worcestershire, WR10 3EH. Email:

The ladybird Harmonia axyridis (Pallas, 1773) is now well-established in Britain as a predator of small mostly soft-bodied invertebrates on a wide range of herbaceous and woody plants. In some urban situations very large populations may develop although there may have been some declines following recent cold winters and the long cold spring of 2013. Conversely, during the mild 2013-14 winter H. axyridis successfully overwintered in the open in Worcestershire. The global literature base relating to H. axyridis is comprehensive.

On 7th August 2013 I observed an adult H. axyridis attending a freshly dead Large White butterfly Pieris brassicae (L., 1758) on an open suburban lawn in Evesham, Worcestershire (SP04 50 m O.D.). The beetle was intent on eating the thoracic contents of the butterfly and was observed doing so with some minor interruptions for 132 minutes. On 9th August 2013 the butterfly’s thoracic contents were found to have been entirely consumed.

Presumably the ladybird located the butterfly through olfactory cues and it was able to tolerate any glycosides remaining from the larval diet. This observation provides further evidence for the competitive success of H. axyridis and bears some comparison to the predation by H. axyridis of Danaus plexippus (L., 1758) larvae in the New World (Koch et al., 2003). It also aligns with Majerus (1994, p.70) in relation to food availability and coccinellids in general.


Koch, R., Hutchinson, W., Venette R. & Heimpel, G. 2003. Susceptibility of immature monarch butterfly Danaus plexippus (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae: Danainae) to predation by Harmonia axyridis (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae). Biological Control 28:265-270.

Majerus, M.E.N. 1994. Ladybirds. Harper Collins, New Naturalist. pp. 1-367.