Specialist-feeding phytoseiid mites have a well-documented role in biological control of phytophagous spider mites. However, although there is evidence for the importance of generalist-feeding phytoseiid mites in spider mite suppression, their role is less clear than that of specialists. The effectiveness of generalists as biocontrol agents and their interactions with specialists might be directly influenced by canopy structure or indirectly affected by altering plant microclimate. We manipulated densities of generalist phytoseiid mites and canopy size (large and small) in open-field experiments in an abandoned vineyard. In the first experiment, we increased generalist densities by transferring grapevine foliage housing robust generalist populations, whereas in the second experiment, we lowered generalist densities using the broad-spectrum insecticide chlorpyrifos. In both experiments, we also altered canopy size by tying grapevine shoots. Increasing densities of generalists resulted in lower spider mite densities. Generalists initially decreased densities of specialist phytoseiid mites as well, although specialist densities rebounded as spider mite densities increased later in the experiment. Lowering generalist densities appeared to slightly increase densities of both spider and specialist mites, consistent with the first experiment. However, these effects were not statistically significant, possibly because the reduction in generalist densities through chlorpyrifos application was not as dramatic as our generalist augmentation in the first experiment. Canopy size did not significantly affect pest or predatory mite densities in either experiment. These field experiments demonstrate that generalists can slow spider mite population growth in grapes. In contrast, canopy architecture appeared to have little impact on spider mite biocontrol.
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