Zoophytophagy in the plantbug Nesidiocoris tenuis
1 The zoophytophagy of Nesidiocoris tenuis (Reuter) (Heteroptera: Miridae) was characterized in relation to prey availability and environmental factors by: (i) monitoring its population dynamics in tomato greenhouses; (ii) analysis of the influence of N. tenuis and whitefly density, temperature and humidity on the intensity of N. tenuis plant feeding; and (iii) laboratory assays under controlled conditions to determine the intensity of plant feeding in relation to prey availability, temperature and humidity.
2 A negative relationship was found between plant feeding and predated whiteflies in tomato greenhouses. Plant feeding was directly related to N. tenuis density and temperature and inversely related to whitefly density. The significance of prey availability and temperature was corroborated in laboratory assays. The intensification of plant feeding at low prey density indicates switching from zoophagy to phytophagy as prey become scarce.
3 Nesidiocoris tenuis showed a typical predator dynamic in relation to variance in prey density. Populations increased after whitefly outbreaks and decreased after whitefly had been depleted. The rapid decrease of N. tenuis populations after whitefly decreased, however, suggests that plants are a poorer nutrient source than whitefly for this species.