Elucidating the trophic role of Tapinoma ibericum (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) as a potential predator of olive pests
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AuthorÁlvarez, Hugo Alejandro; García-García, Antonio; Sandoval Cortés, Pedro José; Tinaut Ranera, Alberto; Ruano Díaz, Francisca Del Carmen
AntsBiological controlDietsStable Isotope Analysis
Álvarez, H. A., García‐García, A., Sandoval, P., Martín‐Blázquez, R., Seifert, B., Tinaut, A., & Ruano, F. (2023). Elucidating the trophic role of Tapinoma ibericum (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) as a potential predator of olive pests. Journal of Applied Entomology.[DOI: 10.1111/jen.13160]
SponsorshipMinisterio de Ciencia e Innovación, Grant/ Award Number: AGL2009-09878
Ants play a key role in improving the structure and function of local communities. They interact with plants, herbivores, predators and parasitoids and are able to change their trophic role in space and time. These features, however, make it difficult to establish the net trophic role of ants in agroecosystems. Here we aim to determine the isotopic enrichment and tissue incorporation rates in ants of the Tapinoma nigerrimum complex, which are found abundantly in olive orchards (i.e. T. ibericum), to determine their trophic role through stable isotopes analysis. We compared the isotopic signature of ants feeding on (1) natural diets, (2) experimental diets and (3) contrasting diets of ants inhabiting natural habitats and olive orchards with different management systems. Then, we contrasted our isotopic results on natural diets with the prey of ant foragers in olive orchards. Our results showed that (1) ants from olive orchards had an isotopic signature different from that of a hyper-predator; (2) the isotopic signature did not vary significantly amongst different management practices and (3) the diet of ants in nature varies greatly on preys according to resource availability, which may be reflected in isotopic signatures. Therefore, T. ibericum is a species that can potentially contribute to control olive pests without posing a risk to other natural enemies because commonly it is not a hyper-predator. The information presented here could be used by farmers and technicians to enhance local biological control planning and/or strategies in olive orchards.