Sticky plant traps insects to enhance indirect defence


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Plant-provided foods for predatory arthropods such as extrafloral nectar and protein bodies provide indirect plant defence by attracting natural enemies of herbivores, enhancing top-down control. Recently, ecologists have also recognised the importance of carrion as a food source for predators. Sticky plants are widespread and often entrap and kill small insects, which we hypothesised would increase predator densities and potentially affect indirect defence. We manipulated the abundance of this entrapped insect carrion on tarweed (Asteraceae: Madia elegans) plants under natural field conditions, and found that carrion augmentation increased the abundance of a suite of predators, decreased herbivory and increased plant fitness. We suggest that entrapped insect carrion may function broadly as a plant-provided food for predators on sticky plants.