Azalea lace bugs, Stephanitis pyrioides (Scott) (Hemiptera: Tingidae), are the most common pest of azaleas (Rhododendron spp.) in nursery production and the landscape. Although pesticides are commonly used to control lace bugs, natural enemies can be a significant source of lace bug mortality. Lacewings (Neuroptera: Chrysopidae) are natural enemies of lace bugs and easily consume them in laboratory studies. Field studies on lacewing biocontrol of azalea lace bugs are underway; however, monitoring lacewing predation in a nursery environment by direct observation is impractical. Here, we describe a fluorescent-polymerase chain reaction method to estimate S. pyrioides consumption based on the gut contents of lacewing predators. Lace bug DNA was detected in fed lacewings up to 32 h after ingestion. More than 80% of the ingested lace bugs were detected using our method with only one false positive result. The assay is both high-throughput and relatively inexpensive, making it a practical approach to documenting lace bug predation in the field.
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Vol. 99 • No. 6