The Stethorini are unique among the Coccinellidae in specializing on mites (principally Tetranychidae) as prey. Consisting of 90 species in two genera, Stethorus and Parasthethorus, the tribe is practically cosmopolitan. The Stethorini are found in a diverse range of habitats, including many agricultural systems such as pome and stone fruits, brambles, tree nuts, citrus, avocadoes, bananas, papaya, palms, tea, cassava, maize, strawberries, vegetables, and cotton, as well as ornamental plantings, grasslands, forests, and heathlands. Tetranychid mite outbreaks became common in many agricultural systems only after World War II, when widespread use of broad-spectrum insecticides increased. Stethorini were initially appreciated only for their ability to suppress severe outbreaks of tetranychid populations. However, research on their prey searching behaviors reveals that Stethorini use visual and olfactory stimuli to locate small mite colonies in patchy distributions, and can be very effective in regulating their prey at low densities. Moreover, acariphagous coccinellids colonize mite outbreaks earlier, and consume more pest mites, than many other mite predators. Key to the use of coccinellids in conservation biological control programs is the provision of overwintering habitats and refuges from pesticides in and near cropland. When these conditions are fulfilled, Stethorini often play important roles in maintaining suppression of tetranychid populations. Examples of successful biological mite control with Stethorini include apple orchards in Pennsylvania, USA, and citrus in Asia, and the unintended disruption of a tetranychid-based biological control program for the invasive woody weed, gorse, in Australia and New Zealand. The systematics and taxonomy of this group is challenging with many cryptic species, and molecular diagnostic tools are sorely needed. How best to utilize their mite-suppressive potential in diverse settings requires better knowledge of their requirements including utilization of alternative foods, refuges for dormancy and from nonselective pesticides, and host-finding mechanisms.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Agronomy and Crop Science
- Insect Science