My name is Xiaoning Zhang, from the Population Biology group, University of Amsterdam. I just started the second year of my PhD.
I am working a on a plant-herbivore-omnivore system to explore the interactions among them, especially the effects of phytophagy of omnivores on the performance of herbivores feeding on the same plants. It is known that herbivores can induce plant defenses, but it is unknown whether plants respond to phytophagy of omnivorous predatory insects. So the question is whether phytophagy of omnivores also induces plant defenses and whether this affects the performance of herbivores.
I am conducting my experiments with sweet pepper Capsicum annuum, two-spotted spider mite Tetranychus urticae, and the omnivorous predator Macrolophus pygmaeus. This omnivore is an important natural enemy released in greenhouses in Europe. It is used for biological control of whiteflies, spider mites, thrips, and aphids on tomato plants and other crops. I am examining the effects of the feeding of the omnivore on sweet pepper plants on the performance of the two-spotted spider mites.