The behaviour of hoverfly larvae (Diptera, Syrphidae) lessens the effects of floral subsidy in agricultural landscapes

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Elsa A. LaubertieJean Louis RGM Hemptinne


Modern agricultural landscapes favour crop pests: herbivores benefit from resource concentration and/or the absence of natural enemies in large areas of intensively farmed fields interspersed by small fragments of natural or non-crop habitats. Conservation biological control (CBC) aims at increasing the functional diversity of agricultural landscapes to make them more hospitable to natural enemies, and less to herbivores. Although natural enemies readily respond to this management, very few studies assess if they succeed in effectively protecting crops. We set up a field experiment to study if an ecological infrastructure varying in size and consisting of the provision of floral resources at the centre of lettuce plots would influence the number of eggs laid by hoverflies, and ultimately the control of lettuce aphids. We found that the hoverfly females lay more eggs in the plots with the larger flower resource compared to the control. However, this response had no impact on the abundance of aphids on the lettuces. We designed two laboratory experiments to understand this absence of response. We found mutual interference between hoverfly larvae, and suggest it may undermine the biological control of aphids. This mismatch between...Continue Reading

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