Effect of stinging nettle habitats on aphidophagous predators and parasitoids in wheat and green pea fields with special attention to the invader Harmonia axyridis Pallas (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae)


Ammar Alhmedi, Department of Functional and Evolutionary Entomology, Gembloux Agricultural University, Passage des Déportés 2, B-5030 Gembloux, Belgium. Email: alhmedi.a@fsagx.ac.be


The relative occurrence and seasonal abundance of aphids and their natural enemies were visually assessed between May and July 2005–2006 in four types of habitats located in Gembloux (Namur province, Belgium): green pea, wheat and stinging nettle either planted in or naturally growing in woodland adjacent to these crops. Results showed that: (i) Acyrthosiphon pisum Harris, Sitobion avenae F. and Microlophium carnosum Buckton were the most common aphid species, respectively, on green pea, wheat and stinging nettle either in or near field crops; (ii) stinging nettle and field crops shared several important aphidophagous insect species such as the ladybird Coccinella septempunctata L., hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus De Geer and braconid wasp Aphidius ervi Haliday; (iii) the shared beneficial species were typically recorded earlier on stinging nettles than on crops; and (iv) the spatial occurrence of the invasive ladybird Harmonia axyridis Pallas was distinctly associated with stinging nettles, particularly in 2005. Stinging nettles and field crops partially coincide in time, enabling the movement of natural enemies among them. These findings suggest that the presence of stinging nettles in landscapes seems to enhance the local density of aphidophagous insect communities necessary for aphid biocontrol in field crops.