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The effect of past natural enemy activity on host-plant preference of two aphid species

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Correspondence: E-mail: s.leather@imperial.ac.uk

Abstract

The selection of a host of high nutritional quality is of great importance to the development of offspring of larvipositing aphids, as is the avoidance of natural enemies. Little is known, however, about their ability to select host plants based on these factors. This article tests the preference of aphids Sitobion avenae (Fabricius) and Rhopalosiphum padi (L.) (both Hemiptera: Aphididae) for different winter wheat cultivars, Triticum aestivum (L.) (Poaceae), and their ability to detect and avoid predators in sacrifice of their most preferred host. In both species a preference was observed for nutritionally superior hosts. The preference of both species then exhibited a change towards a nutritionally inferior host after infestations of the harlequin ladybird, Harmonia axyridis (Pallas) (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae), that had been consuming conspecific aphids. This investigation opens the door to the interesting prospect of the ability of aphids to make complex decisions regarding a compromise between high-quality nutrition and avoidance of predation.

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