Cursorial spiders retard initial aphid population growth at low densities in winter wheat

K. Birkhofer*, E. Gavish-Regev, K. Endlweber, Y. D. Lubin, K. Von Berg, D. H. Wise, S. Scheu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


Generalist predators contribute to pest suppression in agroecosystems. Spider communities, which form a substantial fraction of the generalist predator fauna in arable land, are characterized by two functional groups: web-building and cursorial (non-web-building) species. We investigated the relative impact of these two functional groups on a common pest (Sitobion avenae, Aphididae) in wheat by combining a molecular technique that revealed species-specific aphid consumption rates with a factorial field experiment that analyzed the impact, separately and together, of equal densities of these two spider functional groups on aphid population growth. Only cursorial spiders retarded aphid population growth in our cage experiment, but this effect was limited to the initial aphid-population growth period and low-to-intermediate aphid densities. The molecular analysis, which used aphid-specific primers to detect aphid DNA in predator species, detected the highest proportion of aphid-consuming individuals in two cursorial spiders: the foliage-dwelling Xysticus cristatus (Thomisidae) and the ground-active Pardosa palustris (Lycosidae). The results suggest that manipulating the community composition in favour of pest-consuming functional groups may be more important for improving biological control than fostering predator biodiversity per se. Agricultural management practices that specifically foster effective species or functional groups (e.g. mulching for cursorial spiders) should receive more attention in low-pesticide farming systems.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)249-255
Number of pages7
JournalBulletin of Entomological Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Aphids
  • Araneae
  • Biological control
  • DNA-based gut content analysis
  • Functional group diversity
  • Generalist predators
  • Natural enemies
  • Sitobion avenae


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