Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Letter
  • Published:

Pigmentation of the ladybird beetle Coccinella septempunctata by carotenoids not of plant origin

A Corrigendum to this article was published on 19 May 1977


MANY insects contain carotenoid pigments1, and some notable examples are found in the Coleoptera, where carotenoids are responsible for the yellow colour of the yellow and black striped wing cases of the Colorado beetle, Leptinotarsa decemlineata, and the orange-red colour of the ladybird beetles, Coccinella spp. There has, however, been no report of any insect species being able to synthesise carotenoids de novo, and it is generally accepted that in insects, as in other animals, any carotenoids present are of dietary origin2. In July 1976 the Liverpool area, like many regions of the UK, experienced an invasion by enormous numbers of ladybirds, almost entirely of the seven-spot variety, Coccinella septempunctata. With such large numbers of insects available we were able to use modern analytical techniques to identify the carotenoids of these beetles. We report here that the carotenoids identified were mostly hydrocarbons, and the carotenoid pattern indicated that these pigments in the ladybird are likely to be of microbial rather than plant origin, thus suggesting the involvement of symbiotic microorganisms.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Goodwin, T. W. in Chemical Zoology VI, Arthropoda B(eds Florkin, M. & Scheer, B. T.), 290–306 (Academic, New York, 1971).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Goodwin, T. W. The Comparative Biochemistry of the Carotenoids (Chapman and Hall, London, 1952).

    Google Scholar 

  3. Lederer, E. Bull Soc. Chim. biol. 20, 567–610 (1938).

    Google Scholar 

  4. Valadon, L. R. G. & Mummery, R. S. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. 46 B, 427–434 (1973).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. IUPAC Commission on the Nomenclature of Organic Chemistry, and IUPAC-IUB Commission on Biochemical Nomenclature, Nomenclature of Carotenoids (Recommendations 1974) Biochemistry 14, 1803–1804 (1975).

  6. Britton, G. in Chemistry and Biochemistry of Plant Pigments 2nd edn. 1 (ed. Goodwin, T. W.) 262–327 (Academic, New York, 1976).

    Google Scholar 

  7. Andrewes, A. G. et al. Acta Chem. Scand. 25, 3878–3880 (1971).

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. Arpin, N., Fiasson, J.-L., Bouchez-Dangye-Caye, M. P., Francis, G. W. & Liaaen-Jensen, S. Phytochemistry 10, 1595–1601 (1971).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Lederer, E. Bull. Soc. Chim. biol. 20, 611 (1938).

    Google Scholar 

  10. Davies, B. H. & Taylor, R. F. Pure appl. Chem. 47, 211–221 (1976).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Weisgraber, K. H., Lousberg, R. J. J. C. & Weiss, U. Experientia 27, 1017–1018 (1971).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Henry, S. M. Symbiosis 1 & 2 (Academic, New York, 1966 & 1967).

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Additional information

The erratum article can be found online at

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

BRITTON, G., LOCKLEY, W., HARRIMAN, G. et al. Pigmentation of the ladybird beetle Coccinella septempunctata by carotenoids not of plant origin. Nature 266, 49–50 (1977).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing