Date of Award

6-2020

Degree Name

MS in Agriculture - Plant Protection Science

Department

Horticulture and Crop Science

College

College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences

Advisor

David H. Headrick

Advisor Department

Horticulture and Crop Science

Advisor College

College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences

Abstract

Current agroecosystem management practices have a negative effect on natural enemies and their ability to control insect pests. Conservation biological control through the addition of flowering resources can manage food resources for natural enemies. These floral resources can also provide multiple ecosystem services. Study goals were to determine if perennial Thymus vulgaris L. was attractive to natural enemies and if so, could it be a dual use resource encouraging pest management and providing harvestable product. In 2018 plots in three locations were used to examine the effect of habitat throughout the growing season on the attractiveness of T. vulgaris. Large numbers of Thysanoptera and Hemiptera were collected in all locations, represented by phytophagous Aphididae and Thripidae, and predatory Anthocoridae. Location influenced other families to varying degrees. Seasonal specimen counts were influenced by vegetation density, floral phenology, and predator/prey relationships. In 2019 replicated plots of three treatments were used to examine if harvesting plant material affected the attractiveness of T. vulgaris to natural enemies. Total specimens in 2019 were not significantly different among treatments, indicating removal of blooms did not significantly affect the attractiveness of T. vulgaris. Significant numbers of Thysanoptera and Hemiptera were again collected in all treatments, represented by phytophagous Aphididae and Thripidae. Greater numbers of Diptera and Hymenoptera were also collected. Significant numbers of Thripidae, Aphididae, Mymaridae, and Platygastridae were found in the Family level analyses. Results from both years indicate T. vulgaris was attractive to natural enemy and phytophagous Families. Data from 2018 suggest natural enemy families were attracted to alternative prey and hosts utilizing the foliage rather than flowers but the use of nectar and pollen cannot be ruled out. Data from 2019 suggest the presence of flowers played an important role in the attractiveness of T. vulgaris to micro-hymenopteran parasitoids, Syrphidae, and native Apidae. In conclusion, Thymus vulgaris has the potential to be a dual use floral resource that benefits growers through supporting native enemy populations and pollination services, as well as provide income from the harvest of foliage. It could also be used as a beneficial, harvestable floral resource in urban gardens to encourage pollinator conservation and natural pest control.

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