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Omnivory (i.e., feeding at more than one trophic level) is common in many ecological communities. To date, most studies of omnivory have focused on systems that include omnivores that feed on several prey items, primarily in aquatic systems. Yet, many terrestrial insect predators feed not only on prey but also on plants. The difference between systems with plant-feeding omnivores and those with exclusively prey-feeding omnivores calls for special attention. The first step towards understanding the interactions between plant-feeding omnivores and their prey is to determine how omnivores respond to variations in plant properties. In this study, I investigated two major aspects of the interactions between the plant-feeding predatory bug Orius insidiosus and four host plants of its prey; the behavioral aspect, in which plants are selected for oviposition and the physiological aspect, in which plants differ in their suitability for the insect's growth, survival, and reproduction. No prey was offered to the omnivore during any of the experiments, but older nymphs and adults were fed prey eggs prior to their use in the experiments. Data show that O. insidiosus females almost completely rejected corn leaves for oviposition; nymph and adult survival was highest on bean; and female fecundity was higher on bean than tomato, pepper or corn foliage. The significance of the apparent ability of O. insidiosus to discriminate among plants and the observed correlation beween oviposition preference and offspring performance in bean and in corn is discussed.
Oecologia © 1996 Springer