Feeding behaviour of the staphylinid beetle Tachyporus hypnorum in relation to its potential for reducing aphid numbers in wheat.
Aphid consumption by larval and adult Tachyporus hypnorum (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae) in different reproductive states was compared under laboratory conditions. Post-overwintering (spring/summer) adults had a higher consumption rate of first/second instar Sitobion avenae (Hemiptera: Aphididae) than did overwintering adults. Choice experiments incorporating Isotoma viridis (Collembola: lsotomidae) and Sciara thomae (Diptera: Mycetophilidae) as alternative prey items showed that T. hypnorum had a strong preference for aphids at a range of prey frequencies. Numbers of aphids consumed were reduced when leaves infected with Erysiphe graminis f.sp. tritici (powdery mildew of wheat) were offered to beetles with aphids in choice experiments. Behavioural studies of adult T. hypnorum showed that foraging rates on wheat plants increased with increasing amounts of both mildew and aphids on plants. Feeding upon only the conidia of E. graminis was observed. Results are discussed in relation to previous data derived from gut dissection, to a field survey of alternative foods and to the phenology of T. hypnorum in relation to that of aphids in the wheat crop.