Comparative feeding and foraging behaviour of the biocontrol agents Chilocorus spp. (Coccinellidae)
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This study focuses on the effective biocontrol agent Chilocorus nigritus (Fabricius). Its behaviour and ecology were compared with other Chilocorus spp. where appropriate, to elucidate why this species is such an effective biocontrol agent, and how to improve methodology for its deployment as a natural enemy. An artificial diet for C. nigritus was developed, but was still sub-optimal. Asterolecanium miliaris (Boisduval) was a suitable prey for all life stages of C. nigritus and the adults of Chilocorus bipustulatus (Linnaeus) and Chilocorus infernalis Mulsant, but was inadequate for larvae of the last two species. Adult weight, measured at one day after adult eclosion, was an appropriate indicator of the effects of larval treatment on their development and on the fitness of subsequent adults. There was no improvement in culture vigour due to a behavioural response of individuals within one generation to fluctuating as opposed to constant temperature. starvation for between 10h and 24h was appropriate for standardisation of hunger. Measuring feeding rate at a range of static temperatures did not reflect differences in the climatic adaptations of six Chilocorus spp., but mortality rates at increasingly high temperatures were useful. Chilocorus spp. showed little ability to choose between prey species. Prey substitutions adversely affected adults and larvae. Introduction of adults was the most effective method for field establishment. Giant bamboo Dendrocalamus giganteus Munro was a valuable site for field releases of C. nigritus, but less useful for C. bipustulatus and C. infernalis. Counter to assumptions on which interference models have been based, no significant intraspecific interference, reducing predatory efficiency, was observed. Visually prominent features on the horizon and a specific leaf shape, were attractive to foraging C. nigritus. The location of prey patches by adults was facilitated by prey odour, but not so for larvae. Adults detected individual prey olfactorily and visually over short distances, but physical contact was required for detection by larvae. Prey location by larvae and adults was facilitated by alterations in movement patterns in response to prey consumption. Differences in prey detection and the effects of prey substitutions, between the life stages, were related to field behaviour. The relevance to biological control, of responses to rearing conditions and feeding and foraging behaviour, was investigated.