Evaluating the link between predation and pest control services in the mite world

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Pest regulation by natural enemies has a strong potential to reduce the use of synthetic pesticides in agroecosystems. However, the effective role of predation as an ecosystem service remains largely speculative, especially with minute organisms such as mites. Predatory mites are natural enemies for ectoparasites in livestock farms. We tested for an ecosystem level control of the poultry pest Dermanyssus gallinae by other mites naturally present in manure in poultry farms and investigated differences among farming practices (conventional, free-range, and organic). We used a multiscale approach involving (a) in vitro behavioral predation experiments, (b) arthropod inventories in henhouses with airborne DNA, and (c) a statistical model of covariations in mite abundances comparing farming practices. Behavioral experiments revealed that three mites are prone to feed on D. gallinae. Accordingly, we observed covariations between the pest and these three taxa only, in airborne DNA at the henhouse level, and in mites sampled from manure. In most situations, covariations in abundances were high in magnitude and their sign was positive. Predation on a pest happens naturally in livestock farms due to predatory mites. However, the complex dynamics of mite trophic network prevents the emergence of a consistent assemblage-level signal of predation. Based on these results, we suggest perspectives for mite-based pest control and warn against any possible disruption of ignored services through the application of veterinary drugs or pesticides.




Roy, L., Taudière, A., Papaïx, J., Blatrix, R., Chiron, G., Zriki, G., … Barnagaud, J. Y. (2020). Evaluating the link between predation and pest control services in the mite world. Ecology and Evolution, 10(18), 9968–9980. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.6655

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