Mortality dynamics of a polyphagous invasive herbivore reveal clues in its agroecosystem success

Steven E. Naranjo, Luis Cañas, Peter C. Ellsworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: The population dynamics of polyphagous pests such as Bemisia argentifolii (B. tabaci MEAM1) are governed by complex, interacting factors involving its cultivated and wild host plants, seasonality, movement and demography. To understand mechanisms contributing to population development and pest success within the agroecosystem, contiguous multi-host field sites were established in three environmentally distinct areas in Arizona. Life tables quantified and partition models described mortality sources and rates for immature insect stages on each host plant. RESULTS: Predation and dislodgement were the largest sources of marginal mortality, supplied the highest irreplaceable mortality and predation was the key factor. Rates of mortality were best predicted, in order, by source, temperature, host plant and season. Marginal mortality was highest for fourth-stage nymphs followed by eggs. Mortality rates were predicted in descending order by stage, temperature and season. Survivorship patterns varied among host plants, and generational mortality averaged 70% on spring cantaloupes but nearly 95% on all other hosts. Population density varied seasonally, persisting at low levels on winter hosts and expanding beginning in the spring; perennial hosts and weeds bridge populations year-round. CONCLUSION: Survival on winter hosts such as broccoli, albeit low, enables population continuity, whereas unusually high survivorship on spring crops like cantaloupe is an ecological release propelling population growth and driving regional dynamics in the summer and fall. This detailed understanding of mortality dynamics provides clues to the success of this invasive pest in our agroecosystems and facilitates opportunities for improved pest management at a broader landscape scale.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3988-4005
Number of pages18
JournalPest management science
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • Bemisia argentifolii
  • decision tree partition models
  • ecological release
  • life table
  • marginal mortality
  • natural enemies
  • survivorship

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Insect Science


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