Whorl-stage maize provides a microclimate refuge for predatory ladybeetles

In this study, we surveyed the temporal dynamics of ladybeetles on maize plants (Zea mays L.) at different phenological stages within experimental plots (2010-2014) and commercial fields (2013-2014). Ladybeetle adults attained high abundance on whorl-stage maize, despite a relative scarcity of prey items (e.g., aphids, insect eggs). Field work in 2015 further revealed how ladybeetle abundance on whorl-stage maize was higher than on adjacent cotton plants – with>88% of ladybeetle adults occurring within the maize whorl. Whorl-inhabiting adults were the most abundant at 12:00, when air temperature was the highest; abundance levels dropped at 6:00, 18:00 and 24:00 with declining ambient temperature. Within maize whorls, average temperature was 3.9°C lower and presence of free water 50.1% higher than under ambient conditions. Hence, whorl-stage maize plants offer suitable micro-climatic conditions for foraging ladybeetles and could act as a refuge during seasonally hot or dry conditions in agro-ecosystems. Our work offers novel information on how crop diversification (i.e., addition of maize strips) can benefit in-field abundance and activity patterns of ladybeetles, and thereby eventually promote conservation biological control in agro-ecosystems of northern China.
Source: Biological Control - Category: Biology Source Type: research

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