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Predators induce interspecific herbivore competition for food in refuge space


AngeloPallini Department of Animal Biology, Federal University of Viçosa, 36571-000 Viçosa, MG, Brazil. E-mail:


Resource competition among herbivorous arthropods has long been viewed as unimportant because herbivore populations are controlled by predators. Although recently resurrected as an organizing force in arthropod communities on plants, there is still general agreement that resource competition among herbivores is reduced by predators. Here we show the reverse: predators induce interspecific resource competi-tion among herbivores. We found that thrips larvae (Frankliniella occidentalis) use the web produced and inhabited by the spider mite Tetranychus urticae as a refuge from predation by the phytoseiid mite Neoseiulus cucumeris. Thrips larvae prefer clean plant parts, but move into the web upon perceiving volatile cues associated with thrips and predators. This behaviour leads to lower predation risk, but also to reduced developmental rate and lower production of thrips larvae due to competition with spider mites. In addition, thrips larvae consume spider-mite eggs. Thus, predators induce interspecific competition and intraguild predation among herbivores within refuge space, even when host plants have an overall green appearance.