Date of this Version
Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata 149: 282–291, 2013
Uncertainties exist about the value of non-prey food for predators that are commonly food-limited, and the dietary conditions where non-prey foods are beneficial for carnivorous species. Prior studies show that large quantities of pollen grains are intercepted in the webs of web-building spiders. We examined the nutritional benefits of pollen as a non-prey food for a common ground-dwelling, sheet web-building spider, Mermessus fradeorum (Berland) (Araneae: Linyphiidae). These predators were provided diets of prey or no prey in the presence and absence of pollen. Treatment effects were quantified by measuring predator body nutrient composition, survival, body size, and offspring production. Per unit dry weight, pollen had less nitrogen and lipids than prey, although relative quantities of these nutrients per meal were not measured. Dietary treatments altered the body tissue composition of the spiders, leading to the highest N content and lipid reserves in spiders provided with Collembola. Supplementing diets with pollen increased both juvenile and adult survival, and the greatest survivorship and offspring production was observed when spiders were provided diets of Collembola supplemented with pollen. Our results show that Collembola are high-quality prey for spiders and pollen has positive effects on nutritional status and survival of a carnivorous species. Foraging on plant material potentially promotes population growth at early and late developmental stages by supplementing diets of poor-quality prey, and preventing starvation when prey are scarce.