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Data from: Insectivorous bats selectively source moths and eat mostly pest insects on dryland and irrigated cotton farms

Citation

Kolkert, Heidi et al. (2019), Data from: Insectivorous bats selectively source moths and eat mostly pest insects on dryland and irrigated cotton farms, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.jsxksn05f

Abstract

Insectivorous bats are efficient predators of pest arthropods in agroecosystems. This pest control service has been estimated to be worth billions of dollars to agriculture globally. However, few studies have explicitly investigated the composition and abundance of dietary prey items consumed, or assessed the ratio of pest and beneficial arthropods, making it difficult to evaluate the quality of the pest control service provided. In this study, we used metabarcoding to identify the prey items eaten by insectivorous bats over the cottongrowing season in an intensive cropping region in northern New South Wales, Australia. We found that seven species of insectivorous bat (n = 58) consumed 728 prey species, 13 of which represented around 50% of total prey abundance consumed. Importantly, the identified prey items included major arthropod pests, comprising 65% of prey relative abundance and13% of prey species recorded. Significant cotton pests such as Helicoverpa punctigera (Australian bollworm) and Achyra affinitalis (cotton webspinner) were detected in at least 76% of bat faecal samples, with Teleogryllus oceanicus (field crickets), H. armigera (cotton bollworm) and Crocidosema plebejana (cotton tipworm) detected in 55% of bat faecal samples. Our results indicate that insectivorous bats are selective predators that exploit a narrow selection of preferred pest taxa and potentially play an important role in controlling lepidopteran pests on cotton farms. Our study provides crucial information for farmers to determine the service or disservice provided by insectivorous bats in relation to crops, for on-farm decision making.

Usage Notes

OTU data for bat diets. Species matches, OTUs and MegaBLAST results