How do Neoseiulus californicus (Acari: Phytoseiidae) females penetrate densely webbed spider mite nests?
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The persea mite Oligonychus perseae is a pest of avocado trees that builds extremely dense webbed nests that protect them against natural enemies, including phytoseiid mites. Nests have one or two marginal entrances that are small and flattened. The predatory mite Neoseiulus californicus co-occurs with O. perseae in the avocado orchards of the south–east of Spain. Penetration inside nests through the entrances by this predator is thought to be hindered by its size and its globular-shaped body. However, in the field it has repeatedly been found inside nests that were clearly ripped. Perhaps penetration of the nests has been facilitated by nest wall ripping caused by some other species or by unfavourable abiotic factors. However, to assess whether N. californicus is also able to enter the nest of O. perseae by itself, we carried out laboratory experiments and made a short film. They show how this predator manages to overcome the webbed wall, and that it can penetrate and forage inside nests of O. perseae.
KeywordsPersea americana ‘Web nest’ Prey refuge Predatory mite Tetranychidae
This work has been partially financed by Biobest Biological Systems SL.U. M.M. was employed by the C.S.I.C. within the framework of a post-doctoral I3P position. The comments of three anonymous referees substantially improved the manuscript. A copy of the digital video can be requested from the senior author.
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