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Spatiotemporal within-plant distribution of the spider mite Tetranychus urticae and associated specialist and generalist predators

  • A. Walzer (a1), K. Moder (a2) and P. Schausberger (a1)

Predators are important determinants of the spatiotemporal distribution of prey within a given habitat. The predator effects may vary with diet specialisation, the associated risk posed to prey and, if multiple predators are present, the predator-predator interactions. We examined the spatiotemporal distribution of the herbivorous spider mite Tetranychus urticae and the associated specialist and generalist predators Phytoseiulus persimilis and Neoseiulus californicus on bean plants. Tetranychus urticae is a key pest on numerous agricultural crops. Both predators are used singly and in combination for biological control of spider mites. Population development and within-plant distribution of the spider mites and the predators were compared among five treatments: T. urticae without predators, with either predator alone and with both predators in combination at full and half densities. The spider mites were suppressed to zero density in both predator combination treatments but not in the single predator treatments. The predators determined the spatiotemporal distribution of the spider mites through density- and behaviour-mediated effects, and these effects were linked to diet specialisation. The specialist P. persimilis exerted stronger density-mediated effects on the spider mite distribution than did the generalist N. californicus. Either predator induced in the spider mites early upward migration on plants. The predators also affected each other's distribution. The aggregation level of N. californicus was lowered by P. persimilis but not vice versa. In combination, the predators were more dispersed than when alone, reducing the predator-free space and leading to the local extinction of T. urticae.

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