The community of predators within agroecosystems has the potential to restrict aphid populations, especially early in the season before exponential increases in density and prior to the arrival of specialist natural enemies. Although direct observations of predation, laboratory feeding trials and manipulative field studies have been used to estimate levels of biological control exerted by different species (or potentially negative interactions between them), it is often difficult to extrapolate results to naturally occurring interactions in the field.

Over 100 investigations have utilized gut-content analysis to estimate aphid predation rates by predators. Throughout the last century, gut dissection, which enables the visual identification of aphid body parts, has been used in over 50% of studies although accurate identification and quantification of predation is difficult. Other techniques have included radio-labelling of prey, dissection of faecal samples, electrophoresis, stable isotope analysis and use of polyclonal antisera. In recent studies of invertebrate predation, monoclonal antibodies have been the most frequently applied technique but advances in molecular biology have enabled the detection of species-specific DNA sequences. The use of these applications to quantify predation by aphidophagous predators will be reviewed, with emphasis on potential sources of error and difficulties of quantitative interpretation. Despite the considerable focus currently directed towards molecular approaches, antibody-based techniques are likely to remain an important tool for studying predation rates of pests in the field, especially when antibodies have already been developed. However, the study of multiple predation events within complex generalist predator food webs is only likely through the detection of species-specific DNA sequences using molecular techniques.

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Published in European Journal of Entomology v. 102, issue 3.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0), which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original publication is properly cited. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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We are grateful to the University of Kentucky and College of Agriculture for providing financial support to JDH and JJO.

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This is publication number 04-08-137 of the University of Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station.

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