Consumption of aphids by spiders and the effect of additional prey: Evidence from microcosm experiments

Efrat Gavish-Regev*, Ron Rotkopf, Yael Lubin, Moshe Coll

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Spiders are common generalist predators in agroecosystems and have been suggested to lower herbivore abundance in crops. It is not clear, however, if spiders can effectively suppress pest populations, and if so, by what mechanisms. In a microcosm experiment, we examined the consumption of the bird cherry-oat aphid, Rhopalosiphum padi L. (Homoptera: Aphididae), a pest species in wheat fields, by three spider species that differ in their hunting methods. We then tested the effect of additional prey type on the ability of erigonid spiders to reduce aphids. In a 48-h experiment Mermessus denticulatus (Banks) (Araneae: Linyphiidae; Erigoninae) consumed more aphids than did Enoplognatha gemina Bosmans and Van Keer (Araneae: Theridiidae) and Bathyphantes cf. extricatus (O•P.-Cambridge) (Araneae: Linyphiidae; Linyphiinae). This difference may be due to the ability of erigonids to forage actively on the vegetation in addition to using their webs to catch prey. In a 7-week experiment, we provided springtails (Collembola) in high and low densities as additional prey to mated erigonids, prior to aphid introduction. Spiders in the low-density springtail treatment built more webs on the vegetation, and caused a 50% reduction in aphid populations. There were significantly fewer aphids in the low-density springtail treatment, but not in the high-density treatment, in comparison to the control (high-density springtails without spiders). The results suggest that additional prey density affects predatory interactions between M. denticulatus and R. padi and that erigonids, which occur in high densities in wheat fields in the Negev desert, may be involved in aphid suppression in these agroecosystems.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)341-350
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements We thank G. Levy (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel) for assistance in spider identification; L. Baert (Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS), Brussels, Belgium) and R. Bosmans (Gent University, Belgium) for taxonomic assistance with Linyphiidae; I. Peretz and S. Eliasim (‘‘Moshavei HaNegev’’, Development Association Ltd.) for permission to collect spiders on their properties. For help with spider collecting, lab work, and useful discussions and comments we thank A. Shabtay, I. R. Musli, E. Elimelech, T. Bilde, D. Saltz and Y. Ayal. M. Segoli and Z. Grabinar. The study was supported by the American Arachnology Society (AAS) Research Fund, a Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology research grant, the FPVI of the European Commission, and a Taxonomic Facility Consortia access grant (SYNTHESYS) at the RBINS, Brussels, Belgium (to E.G.-R.). This is publication no. 592 of the Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology.


  • Aphididae
  • Araneae
  • Collembola
  • Erigoninae
  • Foraging
  • Generalist predators
  • Linyphiidae
  • Predator-prey interactions
  • Theridiidae


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