The Predatory Mite Phytoseiulus persimilis Adjusts Patch-leaving to Own and Progeny Prey Needs

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Abstract

Integration of optimal foraging and optimal oviposition theories suggests that predator females should adjust patch leaving to own and progeny prey needs to maximize current and future reproductive success. We tested this hypothesis in the predatory mite Phytoseiulus persimilis and its patchily distributed prey, the two-spotted spider mite Tetranychus urticae. In three separate experiments we assessed (1) the minimum number of prey needed to complete juvenile development, (2) the minimum number of prey needed to produce an egg, and (3) the ratio between eggs laid and spider mites left when a gravid P. persimilis female leaves a patch. Experiments (1) and (2) were the pre-requirements to assess the fitness costs associated with staying or leaving a prey patch. Immature P. persimilis needed at least 7 and on average 14±3.6 (SD) T. urticae eggs to reach adulthood. Gravid females needed at least 5 and on average 8.5±3.1 (SD) T. urticae eggs to produce an egg. Most females left the initial patch before spider mite extinction, leaving prey for progeny to develop to adulthood. Females placed in a low density patch left 5.6±6.1 (SD) eggs per egg laid, whereas those placed in a high density patch left 15.8±13.7 (SD) eggs per egg laid. The three experiments in concert suggest that gravid P. persimilis females are able to balance the trade off between optimal foraging and optimal oviposition and adjust patch-leaving to own and progeny prey needs.

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