Lychnis moth (Hadena bicruris) lays more eggs in isolated areas

February 11, 2005

The Lychnis moth (Hadena bicruris) is laying more eggs on white campion (Silene latifolia), due to the increasing fragmentation of the countryside. Dutch researcher Jelmer Elzinga studied how many white campion seeds were eaten by Lychnis moth caterpillars at various locations along the River Waal.

Elzinga discovered that at small and isolated locations, Lychnis moth caterpillars consumed more white campion seeds. This increased consumption was thought to be due to a decrease in the number of ichneumon flies, which kill the caterpillars. However, Elzinga demonstrated that this hypothesis is not correct.

Upon hatching, Lychnis caterpillars eat the seeds of the white campion on a massive scale. Half of these caterpillars die prematurely due to attacks by ichneumon flies. The increasing fragmentation of the countryside means that areas of natural habitat are becoming smaller and more isolated. Moths, such as the Lychnis, are thought to easily spread between the various fragments whereas the much smaller ichneumon flies cannot.

Based on this knowledge, Jelmer Elzinga investigated whether caterpillars more frequently attacked white campion in strongly fragmented areas. It was expected that the poor distribution of the ichneumon flies would lead to less caterpillars dying, and therefore the plants being attacked more.

Elzinga discovered that the white campion was indeed attacked more in small and isolated growing areas. He also found that in such areas, fewer caterpillars were attacked by ichneumon flies and fewer ichneumon fly species were present.

However, ichneumon flies only attack the caterpillars when they are almost fully grown. Therefore, the poor distribution of the ichneumon flies could not explain the increased consumption of the seeds. Elzinga found that this extra consumption was due to the Lychnis moth laying more eggs in isolated growing locations of the white campion.
The research was funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research.

Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research

Related Caterpillars Articles from Brightsurf:

First PhytoFrontiers™ paper discusses arabidopsis response to caterpillars
In their PhytoFrontiers article, Jacquie and colleagues, including first author Zhihong Zhang, who just completed her MSc studies and is interested in the regulation of plant responses to caterpillar herbivory, compare plant responses to two noctuid caterpillar species that are both considered to be ''generalist'' caterpillars.

Silk offers homemade solution for COVID-19 prevention
A University of Cincinnati biology study found that silk fabric performs similarly to surgical masks when used in conjunction with respirators but has the added advantages of being washable and repelling water, which would translate to helping to keep a person safer from the airborne virus.

Spores, please!
Black poplar leaves infected by fungi are especially susceptible to attack by gypsy moth caterpillars.

Human handling stresses young monarch butterflies
People handle monarch butterflies. A lot. Every year thousands of monarch butterflies are caught, tagged and released during their fall migration by citizen scientists helping to track their movements.

Butterflies can acquire new scent preferences and pass these on to their offspring
Two studies from the National University of Singapore demonstrate that insects can learn from their previous experiences and adjust their future behaviour for survival and reproduction.

Insect bites and warmer climate means double-trouble for plants
Michigan State University scientists think that current models are incomplete and that we may be underestimating crop losses.

Predatory lacewings do not care whether their prey detoxifies plant defenses or not
A new study shows that herbivores and their predators have evolved efficient strategies to deal with toxic plant secondary metabolites.

CRISPR technology reveals secret in monarchs' survival
New research from Cornell University sheds light on the secret to the survival of monarch butterflies by revealing how the species developed immunity to fatal milkweed toxins.

Caterpillars of the peppered moth perceive color through their skin
It is difficult to distinguish caterpillars of the peppered moth from a twig.

Caterpillars turn anti-predator defense against sticky toxic plants
A moth caterpillar has evolved to use acids, usually sprayed at predators as a deterrent, to disarm the defenses of their food plants, according to a study publishing July 10, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by David Dussourd from the University of Central Arkansas and colleagues.

Read More: Caterpillars News and Caterpillars Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to