Aletta Kassier

Honours Student

My research project is focused on discovering the foundational diversity of lady beetles from the family Coccinellidae in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. The project aims to look mainly at the differences in diversity and composition between urban and agricultural environments. To do so multiple surveys will be conducted between different habitats found within these environments, to sample coccinellid beetles using standard sampling approaches such as visual searches, net sweeping and beating trays. In addition to describing the diversity and composition of lady beetles in the Western Cape Province of South Africa, I aim to construct a DNA sequence database by sequencing the Cytochrome Oxidase I region and a preliminary reference list of lady beetle species which can be found in that region.

Lady beetles play a very important economic role in agricultural environments by being good biological controls of crop pests such as aphids, scales and mites. Despite this, declines in lady beetle communities are pervasive due to certain drivers of global change such as climate change, biological invasions, agricultural practices and habitat destruction. Thus, the findings of this study should enhance the early detection of accidentally introduced alien species, the future monitoring of native lady beetle communities and the assessment of the impacts of alien lady beetles on these native communities.