The diamondback moth Plutella xylostella (L.) (Lepidoptera: Plutellidae) is a serious pest of economically important brassica crops such as cabbage (Brassica oleracea Linne). To address the current lack of baseline information concerning predators of P. xylostella, and their potential role as biological control agents, especially in Central America, we aimed to 1) identify predators in northern Nicaragua, and estimate their population densities; 2) assess their killing rate of eggs and larvae of P. xylostella; and 3) assess if predators feed more of smaller P. xylostella larvae. Individuals of selected predator groups were offered eggs, second- or third-instar larvae. Our results indicate that there exists a broad spectrum of predators, within and around cabbage fields in Nicaragua that have the capacity to feed on P. xylostella eggs and larvae under laboratory conditions. Predators with the highest killing rates were adult and larval rove beetles (Staphylinidae), sheet weaving spiders (Linyphiidae), and larger jumping spiders (Salticidae). Although all predator densities varied in space and time the consistently most abundant predator groups with the highest consumption or killing rate, and consequently the highest potential for suppressing P. xylostella populations were wolf spiders (Lycosidae) and rove beetles (Staphylinidae), although sheet weaving spiders, jumping spiders, assassin bugs (Reduviidae), and damsel bugs (Nabidae) also can be important. We conclude that those generalist predators exhibiting the highest killing rates in the laboratory should be considered for further study in the field as candidate species with a role in the management of pest P. xylostella.
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