Compatibility of Atheta coriaria with other biological control agents and reduced risk insecticides used in greenhouse floriculture integrated pest management programs for fungus gnats
Fungus gnats (FG) (Diptera: Sciaridae: Bradysia spp.) are economically important pests of greenhouse flowers. Larvae feed on root tissue and transmit a variety of phytopathogens. Atheta coriaria (Kraatz) (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae) is a new biological control agent (BCA) for FG. To support its successful use by the greenhouse industry, its compatibility with current integrated pest management (IPM) programs used in floriculture was assessed. This included investigations of prey preference, possible detrimental interactions with other soil-dwelling BCAs, and the toxicity to A. coriaria of registered and novel insecticides. Atheta coriaria showed little preference among eggs of different pest species or between pest eggs and eggs of the intraguild predator Hypoaspis aculeifer (Canestrini) (Acari: Mesostigmata: Laelapidae). It preferred FG 1stinstar larvae to larvae and pupae of other soil-dwelling pests. The entomopathogenic nematode Steinernema feltiae (Filipjev) (Rhabditida: Steinernematidae) was compatible with A. coriaria, but H. aculeifer mites fed on A. coriaria larvae. Insect growth regulators with limited contact activity (e.g., diflubenzuron) were compatible with adult A. coriaria and had minimal effects on larvae compared with other insecticides. Atheta coriaria can be incorporated into an IPM program for FG if harsh insecticides are avoided, but interactions with predatory mites, as well as its effectiveness against other greenhouse pests when FG are present, require further investigation.