Based on the well-known mutualism between ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) and aphids (Homoptera: Aphididae), we conducted a five-year experiment of ant-exclusion from the canopies of citrus trees as a possible method of biological control of aphids. However, our results showed that the exclusion of ants from the canopies increased, instead of reducing, aphid abundance. To explain this unexpected result, we reasoned that the exclusion of ants from the canopies might also have excluded crawling insects that prey on aphids, such as the European earwig (Forficula auricularia L., Dermaptera: Forficulidae). Such a possibility is supported by the negative relationship between aphid density and the abundance of earwigs, consistent with a top-down control of aphids by earwigs. In contrast, the abundance of other aphid predators (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae, and Heteroptera) had no such negative effect on aphid density but a positive one, suggesting a bottom-up control, and showed no differences between control and ant-excluded trees. Thus, the most likely explanation for the increase in aphid abundance in the ant-excluded trees is the absence of earwigs from the canopies of the experimental trees, providing further evidence of the major role that earwigs play as control agents of aphids in cultivated trees. © International Organization for Biological Control (IOBC) 2008.
|Publication status||Published - 1 Jan 2009|
- Aphis spiraecola
- Biological control
- Forficula auricularia