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The Search Behavior of Omnivorous Thrips Larvae is Influenced by Spider Mite Cues

  • Author(s): Martini, X
  • Guvvala, H
  • Nansen, C
  • et al.

© 2015, Springer Science+Business Media New York. The western flower thrips is an omnivorous insect that consumes both leaf tissue and spider mite eggs. For this reason, these thrips are often described as ‘opportunistic predators’ of spider mites. Several studies have shown that western flower thrips are often found in association with spider mites, and the development time of thrips decreases and their survivorship increases when they consume spider mite eggs. We tested the hypothesis that thrips larvae may respond to chemical cues from spider mites, and that they may modify their prey-searching behavior when these spider mite-induced cues are present. We prepared hexane extracts from: 1) webbing of spider mites isolated from maize leaves, 2) webbing produced by spider mites inside an empty glass tube to exclude any plant-derived cues from the extract, and 3) spider mite cuticle extracts. These three extracts were subsequently applied in droplets to one-half of filter papers, and hexane alone was applied in droplets to the other half. We showed that residence time of thrips larvae was higher on filter paper with spider mite webbing extract, especially when the extract originated from spider mites isolated in glass tubes. In the presence of webbing extracts, we also observed: 1) a decrease in velocity, 2) an increase of angular velocity and 3) an increase in time immobile. Extracts from spider mite cuticle only increased velocity and proportion of time immobile of the thrips larvae. Our results suggest that chemical cues from spider mite webbing induce an arrestment response and play an important role in the non-random search behavior of thrips larvae searching for eggs on spider mite infested plant leaves.

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