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Exp Appl Acarol. 2004;34(3-4):239-61.

Combining plant- and soil-dwelling predatory mites to optimise biological control of thrips.

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Institute of Plant Diseases and Plant Protection, University of Hannover, Herrenhäuser Str 2, D-30419 Hannover, Germany.


The efficiency of a natural enemy combination compared to a single species release for the control of western flower thrips (WFT) Frankliniella occidentalis (Pergande) on cucumber plants was investigated. Since a large part of F occidentalis seems to enter the soil passage, a joint release of the plant-inhabiting predatory mite Amblyseius cucumeris (Oudemans) that feeds on thrips first-instar larvae and the soil-dwelling predatory mite Hypoaspis aculeifer (Canestrini) that preys on thrips pupae in the ground might offer a promising approach for a holistic control strategy. Therefore, two sets of experiments were conducted in cooperation with a commercial vegetable grower where the plants in plots were infested with a defined number of larval and adult F occidentalis. Two species of natural enemies were released either synchronously or solely, and their efficacy was compared to control plots devoid of antagonists. In both experiments, the predatory mites were released twice with a density of 46 A. cucumeris/m2, and 207 H. aculeifer/m2 (low-density) in the first experiment and 528 H. aculeifer/m2 (high-density) in the second one. Population growth of all arthropod species on the plants and in the soil was quantified at regular intervals and included all soil-dwelling mites and alternative preys present in the substrate. The results showed that H. aculeifer alone had a significant impact on thrips population development only when released at high-densities, but competence was lower compared to the other antagonist treatments. The impact of A. cucumeris alone and A. cucumeris & H. aculeifer combined was similar. Thus, the pooled exploitation of natural enemies did not boost thrips control compared to the single species application of A. cucumeris (non-additive effect), which could be explained by resource competition between both predatory mite species. Species number and population size in the soil of the experimental plots both showed a high variability, a possible consequence of their interaction with released soil-dwelling predatory H. aculeifer mites. The impact of resource competition and presence of alternative preys on thrips biological control is exhaustively discussed. From our study, we can extract the subsequent conclusions: (1) the combined use of H. aculeifer and A. cucumeris cannot increase thrips control on cucumber compared to the release of A. cucumeris alone, but the overall reliability of thrips biological control might be enhanced, (2) the availability of alternative preys seemed to affect the thrips predation rate of H. aculeifer, and (3) the impact of naturally occurring soil predatory mites on the control of WFT seemed to be partial.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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