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‘Phytophagous’ thrips are facultative predators of twospotted spider mites (Acari: Tetranychidae) on cotton in Australia

  • L. J. Wilson (a1), L. R. Bauer (a1) and G.H. Walter (a2)


Predatory feeding on Tetranychus urticae Koch (Acari: Tetranychidae) populations on cotton by phytophagous thrips, Thrips imaginis Bagnall, T. tabaci Lindeman and Frankliniella schultzei Trybom (Thysanoptera: Thripidae), was investigated in the field and laboratory. Phytophagous thrips are a common early season pest of cotton in Australia, though their true pest status is undefined. In California, the phytophagous thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis (Pergande)) is regarded as an opportunistic predator of mite eggs, their consumption of which increases fitness over a diet of leaf tissue alone. Thrips are among the most abundant of insects on young cotton. If they consume mite eggs, even at relatively low rates, they could have a significant influence on the probability of survival of early season spider mites. Consumption of eggs of T. urticae by thrips was investigated in the laboratory. Second instar F. schultzei consumed more eggs per day (ca. 4 eggs per day) than did second instar T. tabaci or T. imaginis (ca. l egg per day). Consumption by first instar F. schultzei was much lower than for second instars. Adult T. tabaci consumed ca. l egg per day whilst adults of F. schultzei consumed only ca. 0.5 eggs per day, although some individuals of this species did consume substantial numbers of eggs. Larvae of all thrips species showed a type II functional response to prey density. In the field, adults and larvae of T. tabaci and F. schultzei showed a preference for cotton seedlings that were also infested by spider mites. In a glasshouse, larvae of T. tabaci showed a highly significant preference for feeding within mite colonies. In the field, suppression of predators, predominantly T. tabaci and F. schultzei, with a broad spectrum insecticide (dimethoate) contributed to outbreaks of mites occurring earlier than they would have otherwise. The results show that phytophagous thrips eat mite eggs and that they are potentially important predators of spider mites in the field, especially given their abundance on young cotton and preference for inhabiting situations in which mite colonies are found.


Corresponding author

L.J. Wilson, CSIRO Cotton Research Unit, Locked Bag 59, Narrabri, New South Wales 2390, Australia.


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‘Phytophagous’ thrips are facultative predators of twospotted spider mites (Acari: Tetranychidae) on cotton in Australia

  • L. J. Wilson (a1), L. R. Bauer (a1) and G.H. Walter (a2)


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