, Volume 87, Issue 2, pp 233-239

Direct and indirect interactions between ants (Pheidole megacephala), scales (Coccus viridis) and plants (Pluchea indica)

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Summary

This study investigated direct and indirect interactions between the ant, Pheidole megacephala (Fabr.), the green scale, Coccus viridis (Green), and the scale's host plant, Pluchea indica (L.). To examine the influence of ants on scales and host plants, scale population densities, scale mortality rates, and plant performance were studied on control host plants with ants and host plants from which ants had been removed. Plants with ants present had significantly greater scale population densities and scale reproductive rates than did plants without ants. Scale mortality from both parasitism and other causes was increased on plants without ants relative to plants with ants. Predator introduction experiments showed that P. megacephala removes predatory coccinellid larvae, even when they are covered with a protective coating. Host plants from which ants had been removed had significantly higher degrees of honeydew accumulation, which resulted in greater colonization by sooty mold and greater rates of leaf death and abscission. Ants also removed herbivorous lepidopteran larvae from plants. Results are discussed in terms of the potential of P. megacephala to exert direct and indirect positive effects on scale populations and an indirect positive effect on Pluchea indica.