The significance of prey in the diet of the phytophagous thrips, Frankliniella schultzei


Manthana Milne Department of Entomology, The University of Queensland, Queensland 4072,


1. Patterns of mite egg consumption by the phytophagous thrips Frankliniella schultzei Trybom were investigated. Although F. schultzei predation is somewhat similar to that of F. occidentalis (Pergande), the understanding of predation by these two phytophagous thrips was extended, allowing the functional significance of flower thrips’ predatory behaviour to be reinterpreted.

2. Second-instar larvae consumed significantly more eggs than any other life-stage, and the daily intake of eggs by second-instar larvae declined significantly with each successive day of the 4-day duration of instar two.

3. Mite eggs that had had their silken webbing removed were consumed at a significantly greater rate than those with their webbing intact.

4. Frankliniella schultzei immatures developed successfully both on diets containing cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) leaf tissue plus mite eggs and on cotton leaf tissue alone. Supplementing a leaf tissue larval diet with mite eggs lowered the developmental time from egg to adult significantly, as well as lowering the percentage mortality. Continuation of the mite egg supplement beyond adult eclosion increased fecundity significantly and extended life span over that achieved on a leaf diet alone.

5. In laboratory choice tests, mite eggs and pollen of Wax Mallow (Malvaviscus arboreus Cav.), the usual host of F. schultzei in Brisbane, were encountered with similar frequencies. Furthermore, the mean proportion of encounters with pollen grains that resulted in consumption of pollen did not differ significantly from the encounter : consumption rate for mite eggs.

6. Frankliniella schultzei, like F. occidentalis, does not seem to be specifically adapted for preying on mite eggs, even though such predation enhances performance and reproductive output of F. schultzei when constrained on cotton leaves. Comparison of performance results with those published for F. schultzei when reared on the floral parts of one of its primary hosts (M. arboreus) (Milne et al., 1996), indicates that mite egg predation does not make up completely for a deficient adult or larval diet.