Are populations of European earwigs, **Forficula auricularia**, density dependent?
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Entomologia experimentalis et applicata. - Amsterdam
, p. 198-206
University of Antwerp
Biocontrol using naturally occurring predators is often limited by population parameters of those predators. Earwigs, Forficula auricularia L. (Dermaptera: Forficulidae), are important predators in fruit orchards. They are capable of suppressing outbreaks of pest species, such as pear psyllid and various apple aphid species. Earwigs therefore play an important role in integrated pest management in fruit orchards and are essential in organic top fruit cultures. However, earwig populations are very unstable, showing large between-year variation in densities, which limits their practical use. Extensive knowledge of regulating processes of populations is therefore crucial for efficient orchard management. A 2-year phenological study in several apple and pear orchards in Belgium showed a significant displacement of third instars during the second brood in relation to the presence of adults. We also observed a yearly population crash at the time of moulting into adults. This population decrease was correlated with earwig numbers at peak density. The crash occurred at lower earwig densities in apple orchards than in pear orchards. Six possible regulating mechanisms for this density-dependent decrease are discussed: (1) migration, (2) pesticides or orchard management, (3) starvation, (4) pathogens, (5) parasites and parasitoids, and (6) predation or cannibalism. If we can identify these regulating processes, specific management activities could be developed to prevent the population crash, hereby increasing population densities in the orchards.