• Amensal;
  • commensal;
  • context-dependent interaction;
  • leaf processing;
  • Ochlerotatus triseriatus;
  • scirtid beetle;
  • tree hole

Abstract 1. Scirtid beetles may benefit mosquitoes Ochlerotatus triseriatus (Say) by consuming whole leaves and leaving behind fine particles required by mosquito larvae. Such interactions based on the sequential use of a resource that occurs in multiple forms are known as processing chains.

2. Models of processing chains predict that interactions can vary from commensal (0, +) to amensal (0, –), depending on how quickly resource is processed in the absence of consumers.

3. The scirtid–O. triseriatus system was used to test the prediction derived from processing chain models that, as consumer-independent processing increases, scirtids benefit mosquitoes less. Consumer-independent processing rate was manipulated by using different leaf species that vary in decay rate, or by physically crushing a single leaf type to different degrees.

4. Although scirtids increased the production of fine particles, the effects of scirtids on mosquitoes were weak and were not dependent on consumer-independent processing rate.

5. In the leaf manipulation experiment, a correlation between scirtid feeding and consumer-independent processing was detected. Numerical simulations suggest that such a correlation may eliminate shifts from commensal to amensal at equilibrium; because mosquito populations are typically not at equilibrium, however, this correlation may not be important.

6. There was evidence that mosquitoes affected scirtids negatively, which is inconsistent with the structure of processing chain interactions in models. Processing chain models need to incorporate more detail on the biology of scirtids and O. triseriatus, especially alternative mechanisms of interaction, if they are to describe scirtid–O. triseriatus dynamics accurately.