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Reduced phytophagy in sugar-provisioned mirids


Zoophytophagous mirids (Hemiptera: Miridae) are one of the most studied and successful group of natural enemies used as biological control agents in horticultural crops. When prey is scarce, some species, such as Nesidiocoris tenuis (Reuter), may damage plant tissue by increasing feeding on vegetative and reproductive organs. Despite the importance of mirids, the provision of a sugar source as an alternative or complement to plant feeding has never been addressed to reduce mirid phytophagy. Here, we analyzed the nutritional status and phytophagy of N. tenuis in the presence of tomato plants with and without sugar dispensers. Our study demonstrated how nymphs and adults obtained carbohydrates when fed on tomato plants. Phytophagy was reduced more than twofold with the provision of sugar dispensers. Both nymphs and adults contained higher carbohydrate levels when they had access to plants with sugar dispensers than without. Nymphs, which are generally responsible for more serious plant damage, had a higher content of carbohydrates than adults independently of the diet provided. Our findings contribute not only to improve the use of zoophytophagous predators as biological control agents, but also to understand the nutritional ecology of the Miridae, a group with a very diverse diet.

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We acknowledge two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments. The authors thank Miquel Alonso (IVIA) for technical assistance and Dr. Javier Calvo (KOPPERT BS, Spain) for supplying the insects. The research leading to these results was partially funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (AGL2014-55616-C3) and the Conselleria d’Agricultura, Pesca i Alimentació de la Generalitat Valenciana. JG-C was the recipient of a postdoctoral fellowship from the MCINN (Ramón y Cajal program), and PU-B was the recipient of a predoctoral grant from MCINN (EEBB-I-16-11157).


The research leading to these results was partially funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (AGL2014-55616-C3) and the Conselleria d’Agricultura, Pesca i Alimentació de la Generalitat Valenciana.

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PU-B, AU, JG-C, and AT designed the research. PU-B and PB conducted experiments. PU-B and AT analyzed the data. All authors commented on the manuscript.

Correspondence to A. Tena.

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This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors. All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

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Urbaneja-Bernat, P., Bru, P., González-Cabrera, J. et al. Reduced phytophagy in sugar-provisioned mirids. J Pest Sci 92, 1139–1148 (2019).

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  • Nesidiocoris tenuis
  • Nutritional ecology
  • Biological control
  • Tomato
  • Artificial food