The influence of plant architecture on the foraging efficiencies of a suite of ladybird beetles feeding on aphids
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By manipulating plant variety and predator species, we investigated the interactions of plant and predator traits in determining predation effectiveness. The predators were all coccinellid adults (Hippodamia convergens, Hippodamia variegata, Coccinella apunctata, and Coccinella septempunctata) and the prey were cabbage aphids (Brevicoryne brassicae). Foraging behavior of the four predators was observed on four crucifers that differed widely in their structures and surface textures (Brassica oleracea caulorapa, Brassica campestris, Brassica juncea crispifolia, and Hirschfeldia incana). Predation rates were significantly influenced by plant variety, a result we attribute to direct effects of plant morphology on predator mobility, falling frequency, and prey accessibility. Predation rates did not vary significantly among the ladybirds, although the four species did exhibit distinct foraging strategies as measured by time spent actively foraging, the rate of encountering aphids, and the fraction of aphids encountered that were consumed. The coccinellids also differed in their propensity for flying away from the plant, and in the frequency with which they fell from the plant. We did not detect any significant interaction effects between plant and predator species, suggesting that the main effects of plant and predator species may overwhelm their interactions in this kind of system. Our results suggest that the level of predation upon herbivorous insects may depend more upon plant architecture than on the particular species of natural enemies present.
Key wordsCoccinellidae Crucifers Foraging behavior Plant architecture Predation efficiency
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