Great Tits (Parus major) reduce caterpillar damage in commercial apple orchards

C.M.M. Mols, M.E. Visser

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    Abstract

    Alternative ways to control caterpillar pests and reduce the use of pesticides in apple orchards are in the interest of the environment, farmers and the public. Great tits have already been shown to reduce damage under high caterpillar density when breeding in nest boxes in an experimental apple orchard. We tested whether this reduction also occurs under practical conditions of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), as well as Organic Farming (OF), by setting up an area with nest boxes while leaving a comparable area as a control within 12 commercial orchards. We showed that in IPM orchards, but not in OF orchards, in the areas with breeding great tits, apples had 50% of the caterpillar damage of the control areas. Offering nest boxes to attract insectivorous passerines in orchards can thus lead to more limited pesticide use, thereby adding to the natural biological diversity in an agricultural landscape, while also being economically profitable to the fruit growers.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere202
    JournalPLoS One
    Volume2
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2007

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