Plant Architecture and the Foraging Success of Ladybird Beetles Attacking the Russian Wheat Aphid

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Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata



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We examined the interaction between the fourteen-spotted ladybird beetle, Propylea quatuordecimpunctata (L.), and the Russian wheat aphid, Diuraphis noxia (Mordvilko), on two grasses with divergent leaf architectures. Like wheat, crested wheatgrass bears flat, broad leaves, whereas Indian ricegrass produces slender, tightly rolled leaves. In the absence of aphid prey, residence times and time budgets of larvae and adults of P. quatuordecimpunctata were similar on the two hosts, although larvae tended to remain longer on crested wheatgrass. When aphids were present, both predator stages dislodged, contacted, and captured aphids at higher rates on Indian ricegrass than on crested wheatgrass. Predator time budgets and behavior sequences also reflected a greater predation risk for D. noxia on Indian ricegrass, and were consistent with earlier, population-level experiments in the field. Comparisons between aphid-free and aphid-infested plants suggest that the effect of host plant in this tri-trophic system largely depended on differences in the availability of prey refuges rather than on differences in predator searching behavior; proportionally more aphids fed in exposed locations on Indian ricegrass than on crested wheatgrass. Plant architecture is likely to be an important component of the predation risk of D. noxia because of the aphid's tendency to feed in relatively concealed locations.

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