Estimating Susceptibility of Biological Control Agents to Pesticides: Influence of Life History Strategies and Population Structure

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In this study we examined the influences that differing life history strategies and population structures at the time of pesticide exposure have on population susceptibility to pesticides. We used life table data and a matrix projection model to incorporate combinations of mortality (lethal effect) and reductions in fecundity (sublethal effect) into estimates of intrinsic population growth rates (r) for a predator, the seven-spot lady beetle, Coccinella septempunctata L., and its prey, the pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum Harris, and an aphid parasitoid, Diaeretiella rapae (M'Intosh). All three species exhibited differences in key life history variables. The aphid had the highest r and shortest generation time, the ladybeetle had the lowest r and longest generation, while the parasitoid exhibited intermediate life history characteristics. When the model was run with populations started as neonates (aphids) or eggs (lady beetle, parasitoid) for each species, ladybeetle populations were much more susceptible than either aphid or parasitoid populations 30 days after simulated exposure to a pesticide. For example, 50% mortality and a 50% reduction in fecundity resulted in a population headed toward extinction (negative r) for the ladybeetle while the parasitoid population grew exponentially (positive r) even after sustaining 70% mortality and a 70% reduction in fecundity. The aphid species maintained exponential growth after sustaining 80% mortality and an 80% reduction in fecundity. Thus, differences in life history variables accounted for the greater susceptibility of the ladybeetle to a pesticide than its aphid prey or the parasitoid over a set time interval. These differences in susceptibility were greatly reduced when the model was run starting with a mixed age/stage population (the stable age distribution) for each species indicating that population structure at the time of pesticide exposure plays a critical role in population susceptibility. These results suggest that life history attributes as well as population structure at the time of pesticide exposure both play a major role in population susceptibility to pesticides, highlighting the need to explicitly consider differences in life history variables among species when calculating compatibility of pesticides and biological control agents as well as the population structure of beneficial species at the time of pesticide application. (C) 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Biological Control





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