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Food web structure of aphids and their parasitoids in Belgian fruit agroecosystems

Alhmedi, Ammar, Raymaekers, Stijn, Tomanović, Željko, Bylemans, Dany, Beliën, Tim
Entomological science 2018 v.21 no.3 pp. 279-291
Aphidoidea, Binodoxys, Ephedrus, Praon volucre, agroecosystems, biological control, community structure, crops, food webs, fruits, habitats, herbaceous plants, host plants, insects, landscape management, parasitoids, shrubs, statistics, trees, webs, Belgium
Community structures of aphids and their parasitoids were studied in fruit crop habitats of eastern Belgium in 2014 and 2015. Quantitative food webs of these insects were constructed separately for each year, and divided into subwebs on three host‐plant categories, fruit crop plants, non‐crop woody and shrub plants and non‐crop herbaceous plants. The webs were analyzed using the standard food web statistics designed for binary data. During the whole study period, 78 plant species were recorded as host plants of 71 aphid species, from which 48 parasitoid species emerged. The community structure, aphid / parasitoid species‐richness ratio and trophic link number varied between the two years, whereas the realized connectance between parasitoids and aphids was relatively constant. A new plant–aphid–parasitoid association for Europe was recorded. Dominant parasitoid species in the study sites were Ephedrus persicae, Binodoxys angelicae and Praon volucre: the first species was frequently observed on non‐crop trees and shrubs, but the other two on non‐crop herbaceous plants. The potential influence, through indirect interactions, of parasitoids on aphid communities was assessed with quantitative parasitoid‐overlap diagrams. Symmetrical links were uncommon, and abundant aphid species seemed to have large indirect effects on less abundant species. These results show that trophic indirect interactions through parasitoids may govern aphid populations in fruit crop habitats with various non‐crop plants, implying the importance for landscape management and biological control of aphid pests in fruit agroecosystems.