Climate change in the UK is predicted to cause an increase in summer drought events. Elatobium abietinum
is an important pest of Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis
), causing defoliation of trees, and is predicted to become more abundant in response to climatic change, reducing spruce productivity. Populations are also moderated by invertebrate predators, though the extent to which this might be modified under a changing climate is unclear. Elatobium abietinum
is preyed upon by the coccinellid species Aphidecta obliterata
(a spruce specialist) and Adalia bipunctata
(a generalist), populations of which naturally occur in spruce plantations. This study sought to investigate the effect of different intensities and frequencies of drought on the consumption rate of the aphids by the two coccinellids. In Petri dish trials, severe drought stress increased the consumption rates of 3rd instar aphids by both adult and larval coccinellids. Moderate intermittent stress tended to result in a reduced consumption rate for larval coccinellids only, suggesting an age-dependent response. The findings of this study suggest that, under drought conditions, a prey-mediated effect on predator consumption, and, therefore, biocontrol efficacy, is likely, with drought intensity and frequency playing an important role in determining the nature of the response.
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