Herbivores avoid host plants previously exposed to their omnivorous predator Macrolophus pygmaeus

Nina Zhang, Daan van Wieringen, Gerben J. Messelink, Arne Janssen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Herbivorous arthropods use various cues to choose suitable host plants. We investigated whether three species of herbivores use cues associated with their omnivorous predator Macrolophus pygmaeus to select host plants. Earlier, we found that this omnivore induces plant defences which decreased the performance of two of the herbivores, i.e. the spider mite Tetranychus urticae and the western flower thrips Frankliniella occidentalis, whereas the green peach aphid Myzus persicae was not affected. Hence, the spider mite and thrips were expected to avoid plants that were previously exposed to M. pygmaeus because of their lower quality, and the aphid was not expected to avoid exposed plants because they were of equal quality as unexposed plants. However, the cues left behind by M. pygmaeus may also be indicative of predation risk, in which case all three herbivores were expected to avoid exposed plants. Spider mites and western flower thrips preferred clean plants over plants that had previously been exposed to M. pygmaeus, but no longer harboured this omnivore. Aphids showed no preference, in agreement with their performance, but not in agreement with reducing predation risk. We furthermore showed that the preference of spider mites and thrips for clean plants increased through time. Higher proportions of aphids left plants previously exposed to M. pygmaeus than clean plants through time. Hence, omnivorous predators can decrease herbivore densities on plants not only by killing them but also by indirectly affecting herbivore host plant selection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)737-745
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Pest Science
Issue number2
Early online date11 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


  • Herbivore host plant selection
  • Herbivore performance
  • Induced defence
  • Macrolophus pygmaeus
  • Omnivore
  • Predation risk


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