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Influence of native ants on arthropod communities in a vineyard

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• Ants can have a range of effects on arthropods in crops, including suppressing herbivores such as caterpillars. However, ants can also increase hemipteran densities while reducing natural enemy numbers. In vineyard ecosystem, the effects of native ants and their interactions with other arthropods are poorly understood.

• An ant-exclusion experiment was designed to test the impact of native ants on both canopy and ground arthropods concurrently. The potential influence of ants on predation and parasitism of light brown apple moth (LBAM) eggs, a grape pest, was also examined. Adult grapevine scale insects and earwigs under bark were counted after a season of ant-exclusion.

• Among 23 ground ant species collected, six were found to forage in the canopy, with two Iridomyrmex species being the most commonly encountered.

• There was no difference in the abundance of most arthropod orders and feeding groups between ant-excluded and control vines, although ground spiders were more abundant under ant-excluded vines, despite increased ground ant foraging pressure. LBAM egg parasitism and predation were low and probably affected by weather and other arthropods. Ant exclusion did not reduce survival of scale insects, although the distribution and abundance of scale insects were negatively associated with earwigs.

• In conclusion, native ants did not consistently suppress arthropod assemblages, including natural enemies, and they did not promote the survival of scale insects. Interactions among native ant species within a vineyard might minimize their effects on other arthropods, although this needs further study.
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Keywords: Arthropods; Iridomyrmex; exclusion; light brown apple moth; native ants; scale insects; spiders; vineyard

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 August 2010

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