Group-Living Spider Cyrtophora citricola as a Potential Novel Biological Control Agent of the Tomato Pest Tuta absoluta.

Thomas Roberts-McEwen*, Ella K. Deutsch, Monica Mowery, Lena Grinsted

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Group-living spiders may be uniquely suited for controlling flying insect pests, as their high tolerance for conspecifics and low levels of cannibalism result in large, predator dense capture webs. In laboratory settings, we tested the ability of the facultatively communal spider, Cyrtophora citricola, to control the tomato leafminer, Tuta absoluta; a major pest of tomato crops worldwide. We tested whether prey capture success was affected by spider body size, and whether prey capture differed among T. absoluta, flightless fruit flies (Drosophila hydei), and larger black soldier flies (Hermetia illucens). We found that larger spiders generally caught more prey, and that prey capture success was similar for T. absoluta and easily caught fruit flies, while black soldier flies were rarely caught. We further investigated the seasonal variations in web sizes in southern Spain, and found that pest control would be most effective in the tomato planting and growing season. Finally, we show that C. citricola in Spain have >50% infection rates of an egg predatory wasp, Philolema palanichamyi, which may need controlling to maintain pest control efficacy. These results suggest that using C. citricola as a biological control agent in an integrated pest management system could potentially facilitate a reduction of pesticide reliance in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Article number34
Number of pages15
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Dec 2022


  • sociality
  • communal
  • colonial spiders
  • predator-prey
  • food security
  • pesticide resistance
  • sustainable agriculture

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