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Dataset: Effect of flower identity and diversity on reducing aphid populations via natural enemy communities

Cite this dataset

Zytynska, Sharon; Eicher, Moritz; Fahle, Robin; Weisser, Wolfgang (2022). Dataset: Effect of flower identity and diversity on reducing aphid populations via natural enemy communities [Dataset]. Dryad.


This dataset contains data from the paper: Zytynska SE, Eicher M, Fahle R, Weisser W. Effect of flower identity and diversity on reducing aphid populations via natural enemy communities. Ecology and Evolution.

Floral plantings are often used in agriculture to attract pollinator communities but they also play an important role in recruiting and establishing natural communities for natural pest control. Inconsistent effects of floral plantings for pest control may be a result of an absence of mechanistic insights and a reliance on the idea that simply increasing flower diversity will benefit these services. A more tailored set of flower species may be needed to benefit the natural enemies through provision of nectar and alternative prey. We used an outside pot experiment to investigate the effect of three flower plants (Fagopyrum esculentum, Vicia faba, Trifolium pratense) on reducing aphid pests on four different plant cultivars of barley (Hordeum vulgare), over two years. We grew the four cultivars of barley alone, next to a single flower or next to a mixture of flowers and observed aphid and natural enemy colonisation across the growing season. Aphid populations sizes were reduced on all barley cultivars grown next to a flower with stronger pest suppression when all flowers were present. Each flower species recruited a different community of non-barley aphids that, in turn, varied in their ability to establish the natural enemy populations, and subsequently the ability to reduce barley aphid populations. Overall increased pest suppression in the mixed treatments was a result of numerous weaker interactions between different flower, pest, and natural enemy species, rather than a few dominant interactions. Natural enemy communities could be enhanced by incorporating flower species that vary in their ability to attract and host alternative prey (i.e. non-pest) as well as suitable nectar provisioning. We can use our knowledge of ecological interactions to tailor floral plantings to increase the effectiveness of pest control services.


Data were collected from an outside pot experiment in 2017 and 2018. We used four barley cultivars and three flowering plants (Fagopyrum esculentum, Vicia faba, Trifolium pratense), with flower treatments of no-flower, one flower (each for the three species) and mixed flowers. Treatments were replicated six times and experiment set up as a complete randomised block design. All insects were allowed to naturally colonise the plants and observations were taken twice per week (2017) or weekly (2018) from May until seed harvest in July. Data collected included all aphid and natural enemy species per plant. Data were analysed in R using linear models, mixed effect models, and structural equation models, primarily using the total or maximum number of each species. 

Usage notes

The ReadMe file contains an explanation of each of the variables in the two datasets:

(1) 2017 dataset

(2) 2018 dataset


British Ecological Society, Award: SR16/1069

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Award: BB/S010556/1

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Award: 245400135