, Volume 38, Issue 2-3, pp 87-111

The Effects of Prey Patchiness, Predator Aggregation, and Mutual Interference on the Functional Response of Phytoseiulus persimilis Feeding on Tetranychus urticae (Acari: Phytoseiidae, Tetranychidae)

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The spatial distributions of two-spotted spider mites Tetranychus urticae and their natural enemy, the phytoseiid predator Phytoseiulus persimilis, were studied on six full-grown cucumber plants. Both mite species were very patchily distributed and P. persimilis tended to aggregate on leaves with abundant prey. The effects of non-homogenous distributions and degree of spatial overlap between prey and predators on the per capita predation rate were studied by means of a stage-specific predation model that averages the predation rates over all the local populations inhabiting the individual leaves. The empirical predation rates were compared with predictions assuming random predator search and/or an even distribution of prey. The analysis clearly shows that the ability of the predators to search non-randomly increases their predation rate. On the other hand, the prey may gain if it adopts a more even distribution when its density is low and a more patchy distribution when density increases. Mutual interference between searching predators reduces the predation rate, but the effect is negligible. The stage-specific functional response model was compared with two simpler models without explicit stage structure. Both unstructured models yielded predictions that were quite similar to those of the stage-structured model.