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Data for: An aggressive non-consumptive effect mediates pest control and multi-predator interactions in a coffee agroecosystem


Morris, Jonathan (2022), Data for: An aggressive non-consumptive effect mediates pest control and multi-predator interactions in a coffee agroecosystem, Dryad, Dataset,


Natural pest control is an alternative to pesticide use in agriculture, which may help to curb insect declines and promote crop production. Non-consumptive interactions in natural pest control, which historically have received far less attention than consumptive interactions, may have distinct impacts on pest damage suppression and may also mediate positive multi-predator interactions. Additionally, when non-consumptive effects are driven by natural enemy aggression, variation in alternative resources for enemies may impact the strength of pest control. Here we study control of the coffee berry borer (CBB), Hypothenemus hampei, by a keystone arboreal ant species, Azteca sericeasur, which exhibits a non-consumptive effect on CBB by throwing them off coffee plants. We conducted two experiments to investigate: 1) if the strength of this behavior is driven by spatial or temporal variability in scale insect density (an alternative resource which Azteca tends for honeydew), 2) if this behavior mediates positive interactions between Azteca and other ground-foraging ants, and 3) the effect this behavior has on the overall suppression of CBB damage in multi-predator scenarios. Our behavioral experiment showed that nearly all interactions between Azteca and CBB are non-consumptive and that this behavior occurs more frequently in the dry season and with higher densities of scale insects on coffee branches. Our multi-predator experiment revealed that borers thrown off coffee plants by Azteca can survive and potentially damage other nearby plants but may be suppressed by ground-foraging ants. Although we found no non-additive effects between Azteca and ground-foraging ants on overall CBB damage, together, both species resulted in the lowest level of plant damage with the subsequent reduction in “spillover” damage caused by thrown CBB, indicating spatial complementarity between predators. These results present a unique case of natural pest control, where damage suppression is driven almost exclusively by non-consumptive natural enemy aggression, as opposed to consumption or prey behavioral changes. Furthermore, our results demonstrate the variability that may occur in non-consumptive pest control interactions when natural enemy aggressive behavior is impacted by alternative resources, and also show how these non-consumptive effects can mediate positive interactions between natural enemies to enhance overall crop damage reduction.