Foraging behaviour of predators in heterogeneous landscapes: the role of perceptual ability and diet breadth


  • F. J. J. A Bianchi,

  • N. A Schellhorn,

  • W. Van Der Werf

F. J. J. A. Bianchi ( and N. A. Schellhorn, CSIRO Entomology, 120 Meiers Rd, Indooroopilly, QLD 4068, Australia. – FJJA and W. van der Werf, Dept of Plant Sciences, Centre for Crop Systems Analysis, Wageningen Univ., PO Box 430, NL–6700 AK, Wageningen, the Netherlands.


Oligophagous and polyphagous predators are confronted with spatially and temporally varying distributions of prey. Their species-specific foraging strategies should be able to cope with this variability. Using an individual based model, we explore how diet breath and the spatial scale at which predators respond to prey affects their capture efficiency in four heterogeneous prey landscapes, and combinations thereof. We interpret the spatial scale of the predator's response as perceptual range, and propose giving-up density as a proxy for diet breadth. Foraging behaviour is evaluated for a total of 121 perceptual range/giving-up density combinations, with four of them reflecting the strategies adopted by real ladybeetle species. Foraging rules of oligophagous ladybeetles were generally not very effective in terms of attained predation rate when foraging in a single prey landscape, but appear to be more effective when foraging in multiple prey landscapes. This finding is compatible with the notion that oligophagous predators do not adopt a foraging strategy that is especially adapted to a specific prey landscape, but to multiple prey landscapes. Simulations further indicated that there was not a ‘best’ foraging rule that resulted in the highest predation rates for a range of spatial prey distributions and prey densities. The findings thus suggest that strategies of four ladybeetle species are effective in generating sufficient prey capture under a broad range of spatial distributions, rather than maximum capture under a narrower set of distributions.