1. Although theory suggests that intraguild predation destabilises food webs and may result in exclusion of species, empirical observations of food webs reveal that it is a common interaction. It has been proposed that habitat structure reduces the interaction strength of intraguild predation, thus facilitating the coexistence of species.
2. This was tested using acarodomatia, tiny structures on plant leaves, and predatory mites, which usually reside in these domatia. Sweet pepper plants (Capsicum annuum L.) were used, which possess domatia consisting of tufts of hair, and coffee plants (Coffea arabica L.) with pit-shaped domatia.
3. On sweet pepper, the predatory mites Neoseiulus cucumeris Oudemans and Iphiseius degenerans Berl. feed on each other's juveniles. Larvae of each of the species were therefore used as intraguild prey with adult females of the other species as intraguild predators. On coffee, a similar set-up was used, with larvae and adult females of Amblyseius herbicolus Chant and Iphiseiodes zuluagai Denmark & Muma as intraguild prey and intraguild predators, respectively.
4. Domatia on detached, isolated sweet pepper and coffee leaves were either closed with glue or left open, after which larvae and adult predators were released. As a control, larvae were released on leaves with open or closed domatia without an adult predator.
5. Survival of larvae was high in the absence of the adult (intraguild) predator. In the presence of the intraguild predator, survival was significantly higher on leaves with open domatia than on leaves with closed domatia.
6. This shows that even such tiny structures as plant domatia may significantly affect the interaction strength of intraguild predation.