Supplemental food that supports both predator and pest: A risk for biological control?

A. Leman, G.J. Messelink*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Supplemental food sources to support natural enemies in crops are increasingly being tested and used. This is particularly interesting for generalist predators that can reproduce on these food sources. However, a potential risk for pest control could occur when herbivores also benefit from supplemental food sources. In order to optimize biological control, it may be important to select food sources that support predator populations more than herbivore populations. In this study we evaluated the nutritional quality of four types of supplemental food for the generalist predatory mites Amblyseius swirskii Athias-Henriot and Amblydromalus (Typhlodromalus) limonicus (Garman and McGregor), both important thrips predators, and for the herbivore western flower thrips Frankliniella occidentalis Pergande, by assessing oviposition rates. These tests showed that application of corn pollen, cattail pollen or sterilized eggs of Ephestia kuehniella Zeller to chrysanthemum leaves resulted in three times higher oviposition rates of thrips compared to leaves without additional food. None of the tested food sources promoted predatory mites or western flower thrips exclusively. Decapsulated cysts of Artemia franciscana Kellogg were not suitable, whereas cattail pollen was very suitable for both predatory mites and western flower thrips. In addition, we found that the rate of thrips predation by A. swirskii can be reduced by 50 %, when pollen is present. Nevertheless, application of pollen or Ephestia eggs to a chrysanthemum crop still strongly enhanced the biological control of thrips with A. swirskii, both at low and high release densities of predatory mites through the strong numerical response of the predators. Despite these positive results, application in a crop should be approached with caution, as the results may strongly depend on the initial predator–prey ratio, the nutritional quality of the supplemental food source, the species of predatory mites, the distribution of the food in the crop and the type of crop.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)511-524
JournalExperimental and Applied Acarology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • neoseiulus-cucumeris acari
  • mite amblyseius-swirskii
  • western flower thrips
  • orius-laevigatus
  • apparent competition
  • factitious foods
  • life-history
  • prey
  • phytoseiidae
  • pollen


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