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Word of the Day: Predator

Above: A green lacewing larva catches a spider mite. UF/IFAS photo by Lyle Buss.

A predator is an organism that eats multiple organisms (prey) throughout its lifetime.

Predators of pests are often used in biological control. Spiders, lacewing larvae (pictured) and ladybugs are well-known predators of various pests, though there are many others.

Some predators prey on other organisms in very specific ways. Words that describe these eating habits usually end in –phage, –phagy or –phagous.

For example, monophages feed on just one type of food, oligophages feed on just a few types and polyphages feed on many. Saprophages feed on decomposing matter, while necrophages feed on dead animals.

Organisms that eat bugs are known as entomophages. Organisms that eat only plants are known as phytophages. Phytophages can be used in the biological control of problematic plants. The air potato beetle is an example of a phytophage used in this way.

Learn more about predators and biological control at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_biological_control.