Coleomegilla maculata (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) predation on pea aphids promoted by proximity to dandelions
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The impact of a predator on its prey may depend on the presence of other species in the community. In particular, if predators are attracted to areas containing one prey species, another prey species may suffer greater predation if it occurs in the same areas. If the predator is omnivorous, this may occur even if one prey species is an animal and the other is a plant. We investigated the role of local dandelion densities on the impact of the predator Coleomegilla maculata on pea aphids in alfalfa fields. At small spatial scales, increased dandelion densities were associated with high C. maculata densities, presumably because these omnivorous ladybird beetles aggregated to pollen resources. In turn, the high C. maculata densities were associated with low aphid densities, presumably because of increased predation. We used laboratory cages to simulate C. maculata foraging in two adjacent patches of alfalfa, one with dandelions and one without. As in the field, the laboratory experiment showed that C. maculata aggregated to alfalfa interspersed with dandelions, which resulted in increased predation on aphids on alfalfa. This study demonstrates that a pollen-producing plant can indirectly decrease nearby herbivore densities by attracting an omnivorous predator.
KeywordsPredation Generalist predator Indirect interactions Apparent predation Biological control
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