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A field experiment on the effectiveness of spiders and carabid beetles as biocontrol agents in soybean

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1 Spiders and carabid beetles are abundant generalist predators that prey upon insect pests of soybean. A field experiment was conducted to determine the impact of spiders and carabids on soybean yield. Prior to planting, three 7 × 7 m plots were fenced in order to reduce spider and carabid immigration. Carabids that emerged within the plots were not removed, but spiders that ballooned into these predator-reduction plots or that entered by climbing the fence were removed by pitfall trapping and searching the vegetation. Three unmanipulated, unfenced plots served as the control treatment.

2 Densities of spiders on soybean vegetation, and activity-densities of spiders and carabids determined by pitfall trapping, were c. 75% lower in the spider-carabid reduction treatment than in control plots. Despite clear differences between treatments in numbers and activity of these major generalist predators, the weight of soybeans harvested did not differ between control and spider-carabid reduction plots.

3 Paralleling the absence of an effect of predator reduction on soybean yield was the absence of any significant difference between treatments in densities of whiteflies (Aleyrodidae), leafhoppers (Cicadellidae), thrips (Thysanoptera), Lepidoptera larvae and herbivorous Coleoptera.

4 Our experiment provides no evidence that spiders and carabid beetles at ambient densities affect soybean yield. Low populations of pest species or low predation pressure on soybean pests by spiders and carabids at the ambient densities of this experiment could be responsible for this result.

Keywords: Araneae; Carabidae; biological control; field experiment; generalist predator; soybean yield

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: Department of Entomology, University of Kentucky, S-225 Agr Sci Bldg - North, Lexington, Kentucky 40546-0091, USA

Publication date: 2002-02-01

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