Predation pressure in maize across Europe and in Argentina: an intercontinental comparison

Marco Ferrante, Gábor L. Lövei, Serena Magagnoli, Lenka Minarcikova, Elena Larisa Tomescu, Giovanni Burgio, Ludovit Cagan, Mihael Cristin Ichim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Humankind draws important benefits from large-scale ecological processes termed ecosystem services, yet the status of several of them is declining. Reliable monitoring methods are essential for tracking the status of ecosystem services. Predation is the mainstay of natural pest control, a key ecosystem service. We used green plasticine caterpillars to monitor predation pressure, and to obtain baseline data on predator activity in transgenic Bt versus non-Bt maize fields in Old and New World countries. Predation pressure was measured at ground and canopy levels using an identical, small-plot experimental design in four European countries (Denmark, Slovakia, Romania and Italy) and Argentina. Total predation rate in maize was 11.7%d −1 (min. 7.2%d −1 in Argentina, max. 29.0%d −1 in Romania). Artificial caterpillars were attacked both by invertebrates (mostly chewing insects with 42.0% of the attack marks, and ants with 7.1%, but also predatory and parasitoid wasps, spiders and slugs), and vertebrates (small mammals 25.5%, and birds 20.2%). Total predation at ground level (15.7%d −1 ) was significantly higher than in maize canopies (6.0%d −1 ) in all countries, except Argentina. We found no significant differences between predator pressure in Bt versus non-Bt maize plots. The artificial caterpillar method provided comparable, quantitative data on predation intensity, and proved to be suitable for monitoring natural pest control. This method usefully expands the existing toolkit by directly measuring ecological function rather than structure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)545-554
Number of pages10
JournalInsect Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • artificial caterpillars
  • ecosystem services
  • mortality
  • sentinel prey
  • transgenic plants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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