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Within plant interspecific competition does not limit the highly invasive thrips, Frankliniella occidentalis in Florida


Tobin D. Northfield, Department of Entomology, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99163, U.S.A. E-mail:


1. Species invasions are often linked to reductions in biodiversity, and competitive superiority is often cited as the main reason for the success of an invasive species. Although invaded ecosystems are often examined, few have studied areas in which an invasive species has failed to successfully invade.

2. The western flower thrips, Frankliniella occidentalis (Pergande) (Thysanoptera: Thripidae), is a damaging pest and tospovirus vector that has invaded most of the world, and competitive superiority is considered one of the main reasons for this species' success.

3. However, a recent study demonstrated that competition between larval F. occidentalis and a native thrips species may be limiting F. occidentalis abundance in much of the eastern United States. Frankliniella occidentalis also has a limited abundance in central and southern Florida, which is dominated by the endemic F. bispinosa (Morgan). The potential for interspecific competition to limit F. occidentalis abundance in Florida was assessed.

4. The effects of competition between F. occidentalis and F. bispinosa on adult reproduction on a common host (Capsicum annuum L.) were quantified, using a response surface experimental design and a combination of linear and non-linear competition models.

5. Evidence of symmetric competition between these thrips species was found, but contrary to expectations, F. occidentalis reproduced more in dense interspecific populations than F. bispinosa. These results suggest that, unlike most of the eastern US, interspecific competition is not important in limiting F. occidentalis abundance in central and southern Florida.