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Syrphid flies suppress lettuce aphids

Abstract

Syrphid flies are abundant in lettuce fields, where their larvae are key predators of aphids. However, the presence of predators in the field does not always result in economically significant levels of prey suppression. Even when predators are numerous, their effects on prey population dynamics may be variable. Over a two year period we surveyed lettuce fields in coastal California, USA to test whether syrphid flies are capable of colonizing fields with aphids and suppressing aphid population growth. The survey showed that female syrphids oviposited more eggs at locations with more aphids, and that greater numbers of syrphid larvae resulted in lower rates of increase in the aphid populations. We also directly manipulated syrphid densities by adding syrphid eggs to uncaged lettuce plants, and these syrphid additions resulted in lower aphid population growth. This research shows that syrphid flies have the ability to suppress aphid populations in lettuce fields.

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Acknowledgements

This work was funded by the National Research Initiative of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, grant 2008-35302-04677 and the USDA’s Western Regional Integrated Pest Management Program, grant 2008-34103-19414. Earthbound Farm and Enza Zaden Research provided field access and operational support. Julie Hopper provided the summary of instar-specific syrphid larval development times. We thank Adeline Abrams, Chris Battey, Alice Chen, Brianne Crabtree, Eve Roubinet, Korey Kassir, and Kevin Welzel for their assistance in the field and laboratory. The thoughtful comments of Matt Daugherty, three anonymous reviewers, and the coordinating editor greatly improved the quality of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Erik H. Nelson.

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Handling Editor: Arne Janssen.

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Nelson, E.H., Hogg, B.N., Mills, N.J. et al. Syrphid flies suppress lettuce aphids. BioControl 57, 819–826 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10526-012-9457-z

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10526-012-9457-z

Keywords

  • Diptera
  • Syrphidae
  • Hemiptera
  • Aphididae
  • Nasonovia ribis-nigri
  • Hoverfly
  • Biological control
  • Ecosystem services