Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Flying Honeybees Reduce Destruction By Caterpillars

Honeybee Buzz Attenuates Plant Damage By Caterpillars
Current Biology, Volume 18, Issue 24, R1125-R1126, 23 December 2008

In recent years, it has become evident that indirect interactions between members of food webs can significantly influence ecosystem functions. For example, predators affect prey populations through either consumption (density-mediated interactions) or, equally important, by changing prey behavior or phenotype (trait-mediated interactions).

Nonconsumptive effects of predators on prey may alter plant species diversity and plant performance. Pollination and herbivory are the most important ecological and evolutionary relationships between plants and insects. Honeybees are dominant as pollinators while caterpillars are very efficient plant despoilers. Despite the long and intense study of honeybees, however, indirect effects of this pollinator on other food web members have hardly been assessed.

Here we report on a newly discovered link that connects these two ecological functions: honeybees merely flying around vegetation significantly reduce plant destruction by caterpillars.

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