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Open AccessArticle

Interference Competition for Mutualism between Ant Species Mediates Ant-Mealybug Associations

Hubei Insect Resources Utilization and Sustainable Pest Management Key Laboratory, College of Plant Science and Technology, Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan 430070, China
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Insects 2020, 11(2), 91; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11020091
Received: 14 November 2019 / Revised: 16 January 2020 / Accepted: 23 January 2020 / Published: 1 February 2020
Ant-hemipteran mutualism has been well documented, and many studies have reported the interference competition between ant species for the mutualism. However, little is known on how this interference competition impacts the reciprocally beneficial association. Previous studies demonstrated that the invasive mealybug Phenacoccus solenopsis (Tinsley) has established close mutual relationship with the ghost ant Tapinoma melanocephalum (Fabricius). The sympatric ants, Paratrechina longicornis (Latreille) and Tetramorium bicarinatum (Nylander) were frequently observed to compete for nutrient honeydew produced by P. solenopsis with T. melanocephalum. Herein, we investigated the effects of interference competition between the ant species on the ant-mealybug interactions. Phenacoccus solenopsis benefited from the tending by T. melanocephalum and P. longicornis. Interference competition between T. melanocephalum and P. longicornis interrupted the mutualism, suppressed the trailing activity of both species, but negligibly influenced the parasitism of Aenasius bambawalei Hayat, a solitary endoparasitoid of P. solenopsis. Harmonia axyridis, a predator of P. solenopsis, showed a significant avoidance when encountering with T. melanocephalum or P. longicornis, but not T. bicarinatum. Ant workers showed higher aggressiveness and lower exploratory activity when T. melanocephalum encountered P. longicornis. However, competition between T. melanocephalum and T. bicarinatum seldom influenced the trailing and exploratory activity of T. melanocephalum. It is concluded that interference competition for mutualism between ant species can mediate ant-mealybug associations and the fitness of mealybug colony. Our results also demonstrate that the effects of interference competition between ant species on ant-mealybug mutualism are varied among ant species. View Full-Text
Keywords: ant-mealybug mutualism; ant interference competition; Phenacoccus solenopsis; natural enemies ant-mealybug mutualism; ant interference competition; Phenacoccus solenopsis; natural enemies
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Liu, Y.; Xu, C.; Li, Q.; Zhou, A. Interference Competition for Mutualism between Ant Species Mediates Ant-Mealybug Associations. Insects 2020, 11, 91.

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