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Open AccessArticle

New Tools for Conservation Biological Control: Testing Ant-Attracting Artificial Nectaries to Employ Ants as Plant Defenders

1
Department of Chemistry, Life Sciences & Environmental Sustainability, University of Parma, Parco Area delle Scienze, 11/a, 43124 Parma, Italy
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Azienda Agraria Sperimentale Stuard, Strada Madonna dell’Aiuto, 7/a, 43126 San Pancrazio, Parma, Italy
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally.
Insects 2020, 11(2), 129; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11020129
Received: 8 November 2019 / Revised: 11 February 2020 / Accepted: 13 February 2020 / Published: 17 February 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue IPM and Pesticide Alternatives for Orchards)
Knowledge of the role of ants in many agroecosystems is relatively scarce, and in temperate regions the possibility to exploit ants as biocontrol agents for crop protection is still largely unexplored. Drawing inspiration from mutualistic ant–plant relationships mediated by extrafloral nectaries (EFNs), we tested the use of artificial nectaries (ANs) in order to increase ant activity on pear trees and to evaluate the effects on the arthropods, plant health and fruit production. While EFNs secrete a complex solution mainly composed of sugars and amino acids, ANs were filled with water and sucrose only. The results suggest that ANs can be used as manipulative instruments to increase ant activity over long periods of time. High ant activity was significantly linked to lower incidence of the pathogen fungus Venturia pyrina (pear scab) on pear leaves, and of the presence of Cydia pomonella (codling moth) caterpillars on pear fruit production. These results further encourage exploring underrated possibilities in the development of new tools for conservation biological control (CBC). View Full-Text
Keywords: Integrated Pest Management (IPM); Conservation Biological Control (CBC); ant-plant relationships; multitrophic interactions; applied myrmecology; agroecology; mutualism; indirect defense; Pyrus orchard; plant health; pear trees Integrated Pest Management (IPM); Conservation Biological Control (CBC); ant-plant relationships; multitrophic interactions; applied myrmecology; agroecology; mutualism; indirect defense; Pyrus orchard; plant health; pear trees
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Schifani, E.; Castracani, C.; Giannetti, D.; Spotti, F.A.; Reggiani, R.; Leonardi, S.; Mori, A.; Grasso, D.A. New Tools for Conservation Biological Control: Testing Ant-Attracting Artificial Nectaries to Employ Ants as Plant Defenders. Insects 2020, 11, 129.

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