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A comparative life history study of two mirid bugs preying on Tuta absoluta and Ephestia kuehniella eggs on tomato crops: implications for biological control

Abstract

The omnivorous predators Nesidiocoris tenuis (Reuter) and Macrolophus pygmaeus Rambur (Hemiptera: Miridae) are indigenous natural enemies that commonly inhabit tomato crops in the Mediterranean basin. Both predators are mass-reared and primarily released to control whiteflies, although recently they have also contributed to the control of the invasive tomato pest Tuta absoluta (Meyrick) (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae). The life history traits of these two predators have been studied in the laboratory under the conditions of being fed exclusively the eggs of T. absoluta or the eggs of the factitious prey Ephestia kuehniella (Zeller) (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae). Immature stages of both predator species successfully developed while preying on eggs of T. absoluta. However, the mature M. pygmaeus females produced significantly lower numbers of offspring in comparison to the offspring produced when preying on E. kuehniella eggs. This resulted in higher than expected demographic indexes for N. tenuis when compared to M. pygmaeus (e.g., the intrinsic rates of increase were 0.127 and 0.005, respectively). Our results support previous studies on the potential of N. tenuis has as biological control agent of T. absoluta, and indicate that the role of M. pygmaeus in controlling T. absoluta in the absence of other food sources is possibly limited.

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Acknowledgments

Erica Nystrom from the University of Minnesota, USA, A. Janssen from the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands and two anonymous reviewers provided useful comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript. The authors thank H. Montón, A. Tena and J. González-Cabrera from IVIA and J. Calvo and J.E. Belda from Koppert BS for technical assistance with the experiments. This work was partially funded by the Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Tecnología Agraria (INIA-CC09-048) and by the Conselleria d’Agricultura, Pesca i Alimentació de la Generalitat Valenciana. OM and AB were the recipients of PhD grants from INIA and from the University of Catania, respectively. The University of Catania provided funds for the stay of AB at IVIA.

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Correspondence to A. Urbaneja.

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Handling Editor: Arne Janssen.

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Mollá, O., Biondi, A., Alonso-Valiente, M. et al. A comparative life history study of two mirid bugs preying on Tuta absoluta and Ephestia kuehniella eggs on tomato crops: implications for biological control. BioControl 59, 175–183 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10526-013-9553-8

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Keywords

  • Nesidiocoris tenuis
  • Macrolophus pygmaeus
  • Invasive pest
  • Tomato
  • Development time
  • Intrinsic rate of increase