Zoophytophagy is an omnivorous activity that occurs when a primarily carnivorous species feeds on plant material. Plant feeding by beneficial predators may have negative consequences if the plant material has been chemically treated, contains toxins, or was transgenically altered. Although common in predaceous Hemiptera, zoophytophagy has been rarely studied in aphidophagous coccinellids. This study examined the likelihood of feeding on Bt and non-Bt corn seedlings by third- and fourth-instar coccinellid larvae, the regularity of feeding events by fourth instars, and the effect of leaf feeding on development time and adult size. Both third- and fourth-instar Harmonia axyridis Pallas and Coleomegilla maculata DeGeer consume leaf tissue, with fourth instars being significantly more likely to feed on corn seedlings. C. maculata larvae ingested leaf tissue more frequently than H. axyridis. Furthermore, when given access to corn seedlings daily, development time of fourth-instar C. maculata increased after Bt hybrid corn treatments compared with non-Bt corn treatments. Zoophytophagous feeding behavior is thought to sustain predators during times of low prey availability, and leaf tissue feeding by coccinellids has typically been attributed to their need for water. However, in this study, tissue feeding regularly occurred even though coccinellid larvae had constant access to water and a daily ad libitum supply of aphids. We suggest that, in addition to environmental conditions, the physiological state of the zoophytophagous species will influence the probability of plant feeding.
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