, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 281-296

The Contribution of Extrafloral Nectar to Survival and Reproduction of the Predatory Mite Iphiseius Degenerans on Ricinus Communis

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The phytoseiid mite Iphiseius degenerans (Berlese) is an effective predator of western flower thrips, Frankliniella occidentalis (Pergande), in Dutch greenhouses. In the Mediterranean area, castor bean, Ricinus communis L., is known as a year-round host plant for this predatory mite. On flowering castor bean plants in greenhouses, I. degenerans can be found in densities of more than 100 per leaf. For this reason, the plant is being used as a ‘banker’ plant to augment biological control. It has been shown that pollen produced by the large apical flowers sustains reproduction and development for these mites. The objective of this study was to measure the contribution of the extrafloral nectar of this plant to the reproductive success of this predatory mite. A study conducted at 25°C in presence of free water showed that (1) I. degenerans is unable to develop beyond the protonymphal stage when fed only nectar and leaf tissue, (2) its ovipositional rate is higher when pollen is supplemented with nectar, (3) its reproduction ceases within a few days when fed on nectar only, but the predator can survive for several weeks and resume oviposition when fed pollen again and (4) the feeding of young females for one or two weeks with nectar only extends their longevity by approximately the same period and only slightly diminishes their lifetime reproductive potential (R0), as compared to mites continuously fed pollen. It can be concluded that extrafloral nectar can provide an important contribution to population growth and maintenance of I. degenerans on R. communis, particularly in pre- and post-blooming periods. Assuming these predators are beneficial to the plant in clearing them of herbivorous mites and thrips, this relationship may be regarded as an example of plant–predator mutualism. The combination of pollen and extrafloral nectar makes castor bean an ideal rearing and banker plant for I. degenerans.