Functional response of the mirid predators Dicyphus bolivari and Dicyphus errans and their efficacy as biological control agents of Tuta absoluta on tomato.
Dicyphus bolivari Lindberg and Dicyphus errans (Wolff) (Hemiptera: Miridae) are naturally widespread in many crops with low-pesticide pressure, where they prey upon several arthropods, including the tomato pinworm Tuta absoluta (Meyrick) (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae). However, their efficacy as biological control agents (BCAs) of this pest needs further investigations. Therefore, in this study the predatory efficacy of D. bolivari and of D. errans on T. absoluta was evaluated on tomato in laboratory and greenhouse trials. Their functional response to different numbers of T. absoluta eggs (up to 350) offered to single females or 5th-instar nymphs for 24 h was assessed in laboratory. Females and nymphs of both predators showed a high voracity and a type II functional response, with an estimated maximum predation rate per day of 189 and 194 eggs for D. bolivari females and nymphs, respectively, and 197 and 179 eggs for D. errans females and nymphs, respectively. The predators showed similar predation rates of T. absoluta eggs on plants in cage trials. However, our greenhouse trial showed that the commonly used Macrolophus pygmaeus (Rambur) (Hemiptera: Miridae), which has a lower individual predation capacity than D. bolivari and D. errans, was more effective in controlling T. absoluta than D. errans and D. bolivari because of its stronger numerical response to densities of T. absoluta and supplemental food than the other two predator species. This shows that long-term greenhouse trials, which include functional and numerical responses to pest densities, are essential to evaluate the efficacy of an omnivorous predator.