The effect of prey species on plant feeding behavior by Geocoris punctipes (Say) females was determined by observing prey and plant feeding behavior on cotton plants for three prey treatments: 1) corn earworm, Helicoverpa zea (Boddie), eggs, 2) H. zea first instars, and 3) cotton aphid, Aphis gossypii Glover, adults. Feeding behavior of individual G. punctipes females was observed in the laboratory using caged cotton terminals with prey on the leaves. A. gossypii adults were less acceptable to G. punctipes females as prey than H. zea eggs and first instars. Female G. punctipes fed much less on cotton plants than prey when more acceptable prey, H. zea eggs and first instars, were available but exhibited no feeding preference for the cotton plant versus prey when less acceptable prey, A. gossypii adults, were available. Nevertheless, because G. punctipes females fed on cotton plants regardless of acceptability of prey even in the presence of abundant prey, we conclude that plant feeding is an integral part of the feeding behavior of G. punctipes in cotton. Conservation of G. punctipes by reducing applications of insecticides that are toxic to these predators when they feed on insecticide-treated foliage or by providing nutritionally good plant resources could increase their effectiveness as natural enemies of H. zea and other pests in cotton.
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