Supplying high-quality alternative prey in the litter increases control of an above-ground plant pest by a generalist predator
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Research output: Contribution to journal › Article › Academic › peer-review
Supplying predators with alternative food can have short-term positive effects on prey densities through predator satiation (functional response) and long-term negative effects through increases of predator populations (numerical response). In biological control, alternative food sources for predators are normally supplied on the crop plants; using the litter-inhabiting food web as a source of alternative food for plant-inhabiting predators has received less attention. We investigated the effect of supplying plant-inhabiting predatory mites with alternative prey (astigmatic mites) in the litter on pest control. Predator (Amblyseius swirskii) movement and population dynamics of the pest (western flower thrips) and predators were studied on rose plants in greenhouses. Predators commuted between the above-ground plant parts where they controlled thrips, and the litter, where they fed on alternative prey, although the latter were a superior diet. Predators controlled thrips better in the presence of the astigmatic mites than in their absence. We show that predatory mites can form a link between above-ground pests and the litter food web, and propose that adding alternative prey to the litter of ornamental greenhouses can result in higher predator densities and increased biological control.