Herbivore benefits from vectoring plant virus through reduction of period of vulnerability to predation
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Herbivores can profit from vectoring plant pathogens because the induced defence of plants against pathogens sometimes interferes with the induced defence of plants against herbivores. Plants can also defend themselves indirectly by the action of the natural enemies of the herbivores. It is unknown whether the defence against pathogens induced in the plant also interferes with the indirect defence against herbivores mediated via the third trophic level. We previously showed that infection of plants with Tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) increased the developmental rate of and juvenile survival of its vector, the thrips Frankliniella occidentalis. Here, we present the results of a study on the effects of TSWV infections of plants on the effectiveness of three species of natural enemies of F. occidentalis: the predatory mites Neoseiulus cucumeris and Iphiseius degenerans, and the predatory bug Orius laevigatus. The growth rate of thrips larvae was positively affected by the presence of virus in the host plant. Because large larvae are invulnerable to predation by the two species of predatory mites, this resulted in a shorter period of vulnerability to predation for thrips that developed on plants with virus than thrips developing on uninfected plants (4.4 vs. 7.9 days, respectively). Because large thrips larvae are not invulnerable to predation by the predatory bug Orius laevigatus, infection of the plant did not affect the predation risk of thrips larvae from this predator. This is the first demonstration of a negative effect of a plant pathogen on the predation risk of its vector.