Tri-partite complexity: odour from a psyllid's mutualist ant increased predation by a predatory mite on the psyllid.
BACKGROUND: Predator-prey interactions consist of direct consumption of prey by predators and indirect non-consumptive effects on prey. Predator cues can induce predation stress in prey that negatively influences the survival, development, reproduction, and feeding behaviour of the prey. This study evaluated the effects of hemipteran-tending ant (Technomyrmex albipes) odour on the development, survival, reproduction, and predation rates of the predatory mite Amblydromalus limonicus when feeding on an invasive pest of solanaceous crops, Bactericera cockerelli. The age-stage, two-sex life table theory was used to compare the demographic characteristics and predation rates of A. limonicus in the presence and absence of ant odour. RESULTS: We show that exposure to ant odour did not alter the development, survival rate, and fecundity of A. limonicus, but induced a sexually dimorphic response in its longevity; consumption rates also showed that dimorphic response-predation rates increased in female A. limonicus, but not in males. CONCLUSION: To our knowledge, this is the first report indicating increased consumption rates by natural enemies exposed to odour from a mutualist of pest (ant). This finding may provide new insights into understanding tri-partite interaction involving a pest, its predator, and a mutualist of the pest.