Effects of ant competition and bird predation on the spider assemblage of a citrus grove

L. Mestre, J. Piñol, J. A. Barrientos, A. Cama, X. Espadaler

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Characterizing intraguild interactions is key to improving understanding of food webs because they are major forces in the structuring of communities. Spiders are generalist predators with intermediate positions in the food web that establish intraguild interactions with ants and birds, which respectively compete with and prey on them. Research has also found interactions between birds and ants, potentially resulting in non-additive effects of both groups on arthropod assemblages, although studies of their combined impacts with tests for multiple-predator effects are scarce. We thus aimed to discern the relative effect of ants and birds on the spider assemblage of a citrus grove. We used a split-plot design to factorially exclude these groups over 2. years, preventing ants reaching the canopies by placing sticky bands around tree trunks, and birds by enclosing groups of trees in cages. We sampled spiders from the canopies (beating) and the ground (pitfalls) every 3. months, and we identified them to species. We found a strong influence of ants on the canopy spider assemblage, mainly through a negative effect on the families Araneidae and Theridiidae. Since spiders' weights from ant-excluded and control trees were similar, these results suggest interference competition of ants on spiders rather than competitive exploitation. Bird exclusion did not affect the spider assemblage, contrasting with other studies reporting a marked predatory pressure of birds on spiders; nor were there any non-additive effects of ants and birds. Our findings show that spider assemblages are not uniformly affected by intraguild competitors. © 2012 Gesellschaft für ökologie.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355-362
JournalBasic and Applied Ecology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2012


  • Agroecosystem
  • Araneae
  • Interference competition
  • Intraguild interactions
  • Multiple exclusion
  • Non-additive effects


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