Omnivorous arthropods can play an important role as beneficial natural enemies because they can sustain their populations on plants when prey is scarce, thereby providing prophylactic protection against an array of herbivores. Although some omnivorous mite species of the family Phytoseiidae consume plant cell-sap, the feeding mechanism and its influence on the plant are not known. Using scanning electron microscopy we demonstrated that the omnivorous predatory mite Euseius scutalis penetrates epidermal cells of pepper foliage and wax membranes. Penetration holes were teardrop shape to oval, of 2–5 µm diameter. The similarities between penetration holes in pollen grains and in epidermal cells implied that the same penetration mechanism is used for pollen feeding and plant cell-sap uptake. Variation in shape and size of penetration holes in leaves and a wax membrane were attributed to different mite life stages, depth of penetration or the number of chelicerae puncturing (one or both). Punctured stomata, epidermal and vein cells appeared flat and lacking turgor. When the mite penetrated and damaged a single cell, neighboring cells were most often intact. In a growth chamber experiment very large numbers of E. scutalis negatively affected the growth of young pepper plants. Consequently caution should be taken when applying cell-piercing predators to young plants. Further studies are needed to take advantage of the potential sustainability of plant cell-sap feeding predators.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2014, Springer International Publishing Switzerland.
- Amblyseius swirskii
- Euseius scutalis
- Plant cell-sap feeding
- Scanning electron microscopy
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science