Can Isogroup Selection of Highly Zoophagous Lines of a Zoophytophagous Bug Improve Biocontrol of Spider Mites in Apple Orchards?Insects 2019; 10(9)I
Zoophytophagous predators provide benefits in agroecosystems when feeding on pests, but they can also cause crop damage. Optimizing the use of zoophytophagous predators as biocontrol agents would require improving pest control and/or limiting damage. Populations of a zoophytophagous species can be composed of a mix of individuals diverging in their level of diet specialization. Consequently, depending on their level of zoophagy, individuals would vary widely in the benefits and risks they provide to pest management. We tested the hypothesis that manipulating the composition of the population of a zoophytophagous insect, the mullein bug, Campylomma verbasci (Hemiptera: Miridae), towards an increased zoophagy would increase their net benefit in an apple orchard. We compared the inherent benefits and risks of two different isogroup lines of mullein bug that genetically differed in their level of zoophagy. In spring, when damage occurs, both strains infrequently punctured apple fruit, which rarely lead to damage and therefore represented a low risk. During summer, only the highly-zoophagous line impacted the spider mite population, while the lowly-zoophagous line did not differ from the control treatments. We concluded that manipulating the composition of the zoophytophagous predator population provided extra net benefits that improved pest control.