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An updated perspective on spiders as generalist predators in biological control

Michalko, Radek, Pekár, Stano, Entling, Martin H.
Oecologia 2019 v.189 no.1 pp. 21-36
Araneae, agroecosystems, biological control, body size, food webs, models, natural enemies, niches, personality, pests, predators
The role of generalist predators in biological control remains controversial as they may not only reduce pest populations but also disrupt biocontrol exerted by other natural enemies. Here, we focus on spiders as a model group of generalist predators. They are among the most abundant and most diverse natural enemies in agroecosystems. We review their functional traits that influence food-web dynamics and pest suppression at organisational levels ranging from individuals to communities. At the individual and population levels, we focus on hunting strategy, body size, life stage, nutritional target, and personality (i.e., consistent inter-individual differences in behaviour). These functional traits determine the spider trophic niches. We also focus on the functional and numerical response to pest densities and on non-consumptive effects of spiders on pests. At the community level, we review multiple-predator effects and effect of alternative prey on pest suppression. Evidence for a key role of spiders in pest suppression is accumulating. Importantly, recent research has highlighted widespread non-consumptive effects and complex intraguild interactions of spiders. A better understanding of these effects is needed to optimize biocontrol services by spiders in agroecosystems.