Understanding the relationship between a predator and its prey requires consideration of the other food resources used by the predator. In the case of true omnivores, these include plant-provided foods such as leaf tissue and nectar. The presence of plant resources can increase or decrease predation depending on the degree to which they are complementary to, or substitutable for, the prey. This has implications for the role of omnivores in biological control and some groups, notably heteropteran bugs and phytoseiid mites, have been studied in this context. However, few experiments have considered the effects of plant resources both on prey consumption by individual omnivores (which have an immediate effect on the prey population) and on attributes such as longevity and fecundity which act over the longer term to affect predation at the population level. In this study, a model system comprising an omnivorous adult lacewing (Micromus tasmaniae), buckwheat flowers and aphid prey was used to investigate how floral resources affected per capita predation rate, longevity and fecundity of the lacewing. Flowers reduced prey consumption. In the absence of prey, longevity was higher for lacewings with flowers than those without. In an experiment where aphids were provided in abundance, lacewing fecundity was unaffected by flowers. However, when aphids were less abundant, providing flowers decreased the pre-oviposition period and increased the daily oviposition rate. The results demonstrate that floral resources can mediate omnivore-prey relationships and that, in the context of biological control, their effects may be either positive or negative. © 2007 Gesellschaft für Ökologie.
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