Plant feeding by Nesidiocoris tenuis: Quantifying its behavioral and mechanical components

Milena Chinchilla-Ramírez*, Elisa Garzo, Alberto Fereres, Jorge Gavara-Vidal, Cindy J.M. ten Broeke, Joop J.A. van Loon, Alberto Urbaneja, Meritxell Pérez-Hedo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Zoophytophagous predators play an important, though sometimes controversial, role in pest management programs in different crops. In tomato crops, damage caused by phytophagy of the mirid Nesidiocoris tenuis has mainly been reported at high predator population levels or when prey is scarce. Previous research has focused on predator/prey ratios, stylet morphology and saliva composition to explain plant damage by N. tenuis. In this study, we investigated the behavioral and mechanical components of the damage. For this, we compared the feeding behaviors of males, females and fifth-instar nymphs of N. tenuis. Additionally, we investigated the type of stylet activities performed by each stage while probing in plant tissue, using the electrical penetration graph technique (EPG). Furthermore, stylectomy was performed and plant histology studied with the aim to correlate the feeding activities observed in the EPG recordings with stylet tip positions in specific tissues of the leaf petioles. Behavioral observations during a 30-min period showed that nymphs probed more frequently (38.6 ± 1.5 probes) than males and females (25.3 ± 1.1 and 24.3 ± 1.1 probes, respectively). Similarly, nymphs spent a higher proportion of time (656.0 ± 67.6 s) feeding on tomato apical sections compared to males and females (403.0 ± 48.8 s and 356.0 ± 43.7 s, respectively). The EPG recordings during 5 h indicated that cell-rupturing was the main stylet activity for all insect stages, and that fifth-instar nymphs spent a higher proportion of time on cell-rupturing events compared to adults. The histological studies revealed a trend of N. tenuis for the tissues within the vascular semi-ring. The stylet tips were found both in the vascular bundles and in the parenchyma of the interfascicular region. The findings of this study confirm an important role of fifth-instar nymphs feeding behavior in the damage potential of N. tenuis. Moreover, the increased time spent on cell rupturing behaviour suggests that stylet laceration and enzymatic maceration of the saliva occurring during this event might greatly contribute to the inflicted damage. A comprehensive understanding of the interactions of N. tenuis with the plant, at both the behavioral and mechanical levels, might shed light on new approaches to minimize its damage potential to tomato while maintaining its benefits as biocontrol agent.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104402
JournalBiological Control
Early online date11 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Electrical penetration graph
  • Feeding behavior
  • Hemiptera
  • Miridae
  • Stylectomy
  • Tomato
  • Zoophytophagous


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