Regulation of an Insect Population Under Biological-Control
Walde, Sandra Joan
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California red scale is suppressed to very low densities by the parasitoid Aphytis melinus. The system also appears stable. We report on an experimental test of the hypothesis that stability is caused by a refuge for scale. In a grapefruit grove in southern California in 1984-1985, the bark in the interior part of the tree provided a partial refuge from parasitism. Scale were approximate to 100 times denser there than in the exterior of trees. In a field experiment, we removed Argentine ants from some blocks of trees to test whether (1) ants caused the refuge by interfering with Aphytis and (2) the expected reduction in scale density in the refuge would lead to an unstable interaction in the exterior. We also tested for density-dependent parasitism, host mutilation, and predation by analyzing data from samples and from scale placed in the field. The temporal variability of the scale was at the low end of the range recorded in field populations. The experiment provided some evidence in support of the refuge hypothesis. The population in the refuge fluctuated much less than that in the exterior. Ant exclusion led to increased parasitism and lower scale density in the interior, and to increased fluctuations in abundance in the refuge and exterior. However, these changes were relatively small and perhaps temporary, suggesting that (1) ants are not the main cause of the refuge and that (2) we did not reduce the refuge density enough to determine whether the system would go unstable in the absence of the refuge population. Parasitism, host mutilation, and predation rates on scale showed no temporal density dependence, either direct or delayed, though detection of such patterns is difficult. Possible alternative stabilizing mechanisms include size-dependent interactions between red scale and Aphytis.
MURDOCH, WW, RF LUCK, SL SWARBRICK, S. WALDE, et al. 1995. "Regulation of an Insect Population Under Biological-Control." Ecology 76(1): 206-217.