Predators can limit prey abundance and/or levels of activity. The magnitudes of these effects are contingent on predator and prey traits that may change with environmental conditions. Aberrant thermal regimes could disrupt pest suppression through asymmetric effects, e.g. heat-sensitive predator vs. heat-tolerant prey. To explore potential effects of warming on suppressing pests and controlling herbivory in a vegetable crop, we performed laboratory experiments exposing an important pest species to two spider predator species at different temperatures. Heat tolerance was characterised by the critical thermal maxima parameter (CTM50) of the cucumber beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata), wolf spider (Tigrosa helluo), and nursery web spider (Pisaurina mira). Cucumber beetles and wolf spiders were equally heat tolerant (CTM50 > 40 °C), but nursery web spiders had limited heat tolerance (CTM50 = 34 °C). Inside mesocosms, beetle feeding increased with temperature, wolf spiders were always effective predators, nursery web spiders were less lethal at high temperature (38 °C). Neither spider species reduced herbivory at ambient temperature (22 °C), however, at warm temperature both species reduced herbivory with evidence of a dominant non-consumptive effect. Our experiments highlight the contingent nature of predator-prey interactions and suggest that non-consumptive effects should not be ignored when assessing the impact of temperature change.

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Published in Scientific Reports, v. 7, article 7266, p. 1-9.

© The Author(s) 2017

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

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This research was supported by a grant from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and conducted with the assistance of Andre Lage Perez, Andrew Dale, Micheal Sitvarin and Neil Wilson, and other members of the staff at the University of Kentucky Horticulture Research Farm. O. Beleznai and F. Samu were funded during data analysis by NKFIH research grant No. K116062. During the data analysis, Z. Tóth was supported by the ‘Lendület’ programme of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences No. LP2012-24/2012 and the NKFIH grant No. PD108938.

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