Molecular identification of predation by carabid beetles on exotic and native slugs in a strawberry agroecosystem

Michael J. Eskelson, Eric G. Chapman, Douglas D. Archbold, John J. Obrycki, James D. Harwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Generalist predators have the capacity to exert significant pressure on prey populations. However, integrating them into biological control programs relies on a detailed understanding of their foraging behavior and the levels of trophic connectedness with pest species. Carabid beetles are important predators of slugs, pests of agricultural, floricultural and horticultural crops worldwide, but these interactions have been rarely studied outside the Western Palearctic ecozone. Diagnostic molecular gut-content analysis was used to examine the strength of trophic pathways between a community of carabid beetles and two slug species, the exotic Deroceras reticulatum and native Deroceras laeve, in strawberry agroecosystems. Strawberries were grown according to standard horticultural practices for central Kentucky, following traditional bare ground planting or with the addition of detrital subsidies, to quantify the impact of habitat management on the abundance of pests and the strength of these trophic pathways. Following laboratory characterization of species-specific molecular markers targeting both Deroceras species, carabid beetles collected from a strawberry agroecosystem were screened for slug DNA. Field collections revealed important food web pathways existed between Harpalus pensylvanicus and D. reticulatum, with 7.2% screening positive for these prey yet none screening positive for D. laeve. In contrast, Chlaenius tricolor was found to feed on both slug species in the field, with 16% screening positive for both Deroceras. Despite below normal rainfall limiting slug densities in the field, the results presented here reveal the potential importance of carabid beetles in slug population dynamics in the Nearctic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-253
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Control
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by grants from the New Crops Opportunities Center at the University of Kentucky through a USDA Special Grant, and the Kentucky Science and Engineering Foundation as per Contract Agreement #KSEF-148-502-08-225 with the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation. J.D.H. is supported by the University of Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station State Project KY008043. The authors would like to express their gratitude to Mark Adams for assistance with laboratory experiments and feeding trials and Tom Priddy (University of Kentucky Agricultural Weather Center) for providing rainfall data. This is publication number 10-08-087 of the University of Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station.


  • Detrital subsidies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Insect Science


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