Response of coccinellids to their aphid prey at different spatial scales

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Predators that have an increasing numerical response for aggregation, attack and oviposition to increasing prey density are thought to be ideal for biological control. However density-dependent processes are infrequently detected and explanations include differences in the scales at which observations are made, behavioral differences among species, and habitat features. We examined the aggregation of four species of colonizing adult coccinellids to varying prey densities at two spatial scales in a maize system. Three of the species, Adalia bipunctata, Hippodamia tredecimpunctata, and Hippodamia convergens, responded to aphid abundance at the plant scale, and one species, Coleomegilla maculata, responded to the average aphid density at the plot (10×10 m) scale. In addition, H. convergens responded to individual plants with high aphid abundance in those plots with many plants of high aphid abundance. These results suggests that C. maculata (and possibly H. convergens) may be better able to colonize fields before aphid populations reach high levels, whereas A. bipunctata and H. tredecimpunctata may only be able to respond to high aphid abundance at the plant scale. This study suggests that spatial scale can affect predator–prey dynamics in a species-specific manner. However, the differences among coccinellid species in the community appear to be complementary, potentially contributing to greater aphid suppression.

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