Climate warming is a challenge for many plants and animals as they have to respond to rising temperature. Rising temperature was observed to affect herbivores and predators. Activity-density of abundant predatory carabid beetles, which are considered important natural control agents of agricultural pests, was observed to increase at rising temperature. The pollen beetle Meligethes aeneus is one of the most important insect pests in European oilseed rape fields, and its larvae were observed to be important prey to carabid beetles. Therefore, we performed a laboratory experiment to detect whether rising temperature affects the number of pollen beetle larvae killed by five abundant carabids, and larval biomass ingested by carabids. In three climate chambers actual temperature (T1) was compared to temperatures increased by 3 °C (T2) and 5 °C (T3). This is the first study investigating the feeding of carabid predators on an arable pest insect spanning a realistic forecasted climate warming scenario of 3 and 5 °C, thus providing basic knowledge on that neglected research area. We hypothesized that carabids kill more pollen beetle larvae at rising temperature, and biomass intake by carabids increases with rising temperature.
Both beetle species and temperature had significant effects on the number of killed Meligethes larvae and larval biomass ingested by carabids. Amara ovata, Harpalus distinguendus and Poecilus cupreus killed significantly more pollen beetle larvae at T2 and T3 compared to T1. Anchomenus dorsalis killed significantly more larvae at T2 than T1, and Harpalus affinis showed no significant differences among temperatures. Biomass intake by A. ovata, H. distinguendus and A. dorsalis was significantly larger at T2 and T3 compared to T1. Biomass intake by H. affinis and P. cupreus did not significantly differ among temperatures. Among the five carabids tested P. cupreus exhibited the highest values for both number of killed larvae and biomass intake.
Our lab results suggest a clear potential for higher feeding of pollen beetle larvae by carabid beetles at rising temperature. As rising temperature leads to increased activity of abundant arable carabids in the field, it may be expected that there is enhanced pest suppression under warmer field conditions.