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Hesperomyces virescens Thaxter (Laboulbeniales: Laboulbeniaceae) is a parasitic fungus that infects lady beetles (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) via horizontal transmission between adults at overwintering and feeding sites. The differential behavior of male and female hosts could have profound effects on intensity of infection and positioning of fungus on the host's integument. The influence of host gender on infection rate, density and distribution of this parasite on the multicolored Asian lady beetle, Harmonia axyridis (Pallas) (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae), was determined at a feeding site. Adult H. axyridis were sampled from pecan, Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch, trees in northern Mississippi, USA, during summer and early fall 2003–2004. Results indicated that the behavior of male or female beetles on pecan trees had only a limited effect on the intensity of infection. When averaged over the entire season, the percentage of H. axyridis infected with H. virescens was not influenced by host gender. In 2003, a seasonal average of 54 and 39% of males and females, respectively, were infected; whereas in 2004, 36 and 41% of male and female beetles, respectively, were infected. The percentage of males infected with H. virescens was correlated with the number of males captured at the site in 2003; infection rate decreased as male abundance increased. Infection rate did not correlate with female abundance in 2003 or male or female abundance in 2004. Host gender had a considerable effect on the density and distribution of the fungus. Hesperomyces virescens mature thalli were denser on male rather than female beetles. Also, thallus density was often greatest on the elytra, meso- and metathorax, and abdomen of males and elytra of females, than on other body parts, in 2003. In 2003 and 2004, approximately 59 and 97% and 67 and 96% of males and females, respectively, had mature thalli distributed on the elytra. Prevalence of H. virescens thalli on the dorsum of H. axyridis females suggests that mating behavior is important in fungal transmission. However, prevalence of thalli on the dorsum of H. axyridis males suggests that behaviors other than mating contribute to the transmission of H. virescens onto male beetles. Spread of H. virescens ascospores from infected to uninfected H. axyridis adults of different generations, at feeding sites, might be vital to maintaining stable populations of the fungus.
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