Login | Register

Defensive responses by a social caterpillar are tailored to different predators and change with larval instar and group size


Defensive responses by a social caterpillar are tailored to different predators and change with larval instar and group size

McClure, Melanie and Despland, Emma (2011) Defensive responses by a social caterpillar are tailored to different predators and change with larval instar and group size. Naturwissenschaften, 98 (5). pp. 425-434. ISSN 0028-1042

[thumbnail of McClure&Despland_2011.pdf]
Text (application/pdf)
McClure&Despland_2011.pdf - Accepted Version

Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00114-011-0788-x


Gregariousness in animals is widely accepted as a behavioral adaptation for protection from predation. However, predation risk and the effectiveness of a prey’s defense can be a function of several other factors, including predator species and prey size or age. The objective of this study was to determine if the gregarious habit of Malacosoma disstria caterpillars is advantageous against invertebrate natural enemies, and whether it is through dilution or cooperative defenses. We also examined the effects of larval growth and group size on the rate and success of attacks. Caterpillars of M. disstria responded with predator-specific behaviors, which led to increased survival. Evasive behaviors were used against stinkbugs, while thrashing by fourth instar caterpillars and holding on to the silk mat by second instar caterpillars was most efficient against spider attacks. Collective head flicking and biting by groups of both second and fourth instar caterpillars were observed when attacked by parasitoids. Increased larval size decreased the average number of attacks by spiders but increased the number of attacks by both stinkbugs and parasitoids. However, increased body size decreased the success rate of attacks by all three natural enemies and increased handling time for both predators. Larger group sizes did not influence the number of attacks from predators but increased the number of attacks and the number of successful attacks from parasitoids. In all cases, individual risk was lower in larger groups. Caterpillars showed collective defenses against parasitoids but not against the walking predators. These results show that caterpillars use different tactics against different natural enemies. Overall, these tactics are both more diverse and more effective in fourth instar than in second instar caterpillars, confirming that growth reduces predation risk. We also show that grouping benefits caterpillars through dilution of risk, and, in the case of parasitoids, through group defenses. The decreased tendency to aggregate in the last larval instar may therefore be linked to decreasing predation risk.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Biology
Item Type:Article
Authors:McClure, Melanie and Despland, Emma
Journal or Publication:Naturwissenschaften
Date:May 2011
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):10.1007/s00114-011-0788-x
Keywords:Antipredator – Group behavior – Predation – Malacosoma disstria – Prey–predator interactions
ID Code:7365
Deposited By: Danielle Dennie
Deposited On:20 Apr 2011 19:12
Last Modified:02 May 2019 20:18


1.Addy ND (1969) Rearing the forest tent caterpillar on an artificial diet. J Econ Entomol 62:270–271

2.Benrey B, Denno RF (1997) The slow-growth–high-mortality hypothesis: a test using the cabbage butterfly. Ecology 78:987–999

3.Botham MS, Kerfoot CJ, Louca V, Krause J (2005) Predator choice in the field; grouping guppies, Poecilia reticulata, receive more attacks. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 59:181–184

4.Botham MS, Kerfoot CJ, Louca V, Krause J (2006) The effects of different predator species on antipredator behavior in the Trinidadian guppy, Poecilia reticulata. Naturwissenschaften 93:431–439

5.Castellanos I, Barbosa P (2006) Evaluation of predation risk by a caterpillar using substrate-borne vibrations. Anim Behav 72:461–469

6.Clark BR, Faeth SH (1997) The consequences of larval aggregation in the butterfly Chlosyne lacinia. Ecol Entomol 22:408–415

7.Cohen JE, Pimm SL, Yodzis P, Saldana J (1993) Body sizes of animal predators and animal prey in food webs. J Anim Ecol 62:67–78

8.Costa JT (1993) Larval ontogeny and survivorship of eastern tent caterpillar colonies. J Res Lepid 32:89–98

9.De Clercq P, Wyckhuys K, De Oliveira HN, Klapwijk J (2002) Predation by Podisus maculiventris on different life stages of Nezara viridula. Fla Entomol 85:197–202

10.Despland E, Le Huu A (2007) Pros and cons of group-living in the forest tent caterpillar: separating the roles of silk and of grouping. Entomol Exp Appl 122(2):181–189

11.DeVito J (2003) Metamorphic synchrony and aggregation as antipredator responses in American toads. Oikos 103:75–80

12.Evans EW (1982) Influence of weather on predator/prey relations: stinkbugs and tent caterpillars. N Y Entomol Soc 4:241–246

13.Evans EW (1983) Niche relations of predatory stinkbugs (Podisus spp., Pentatomidae) attacking tent caterpillars (Malacosoma americanum, Lasiocampidae). Am Midl Nat 109:316–323

14.Fitzgerald TD (1995) The tent caterpillars. Cornell University Press, Ithaca

15.Fitzgerald TD, Costa JT (1999) Collective behavior in social caterpillars. In: Detrain C, Deneubourg JL, Pasteels JM (eds) Information processing in social insects. Birkhauser, Basel

16.Gaston KJ, Chown SL, Styles CV (1997) Changing size and changing enemies: the case of the mopane worm. Acta Oecol-Int J Ecol 18:21–26

17.Grisdale D (1985) Malacosoma disstria. In: Singh P, Moore RF (eds) Handbook of insect rearing. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 369–379

18.Hamilton WD (1971) Geometry for the selfish herd. J Theor Biol 31:295–311

19.Hass CC, Valenzuela D (2002) Anti-predator benefits of group living in white-nosed coatis (Nasua narica). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 51:570–578

20.Heinrich B (1983) Caterpillar leaf damage, and the game of hide-and-seek with birds. Ecology 64:592–602

21.Heinrich B (1993a) The hot blood insects: strategies and mechanisms of insect thermoregulation. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA

22.Heinrich B (1993b) How avian predators constrain caterpillar foraging. In: Stamp NE, Casey TM (eds) Caterpillars: ecological and evolutionary constraints on foraging. Chapman & Hall, New York, pp 224–248

23.Hunter AF (2000) Gregariousness and repellent defences in the survival of phytophagous insects. Oikos 91:213–224

24.Iwao S, Wellington WG (1970) The western tent caterpillar: qualitative differences and the action of natural enemies. Res Popul Ecol XII:81–99

25.Krause J, Godin J-GJ (1995) Predator preferences for attacking particular group sizes: consequences for predator hunting success and prey predation risk. Anim Behav 50:465–473

26.Krause J, Reeves P, Hoare D (1998) Positioning behaviour in roach shoals: the role of body length and nutritional state. Behaviour 135:1031–1039

27.Lawrence WS (1990) The effects of group size and host species on development and survivorship of a gregarious caterpillar Halisidota caryae (Lepidoptera: Arctiidae). Ecol Entomol 15:53–62

28.Lemos WP, Zanuncio JC, Serrao JE (2005) Attack behavior of Podisus rostralis (Heteroptera: Pentatomidade) adults on caterpillars of Bombyx mori (Lepidoptera: Bombycidae). Braz Arch Biol Technol 48:975–981

29.Levesque KR, Fortin M, Mauffette Y (2002) Temperature and food quality effects on growth, consumption and post-ingestive utilization efficiencies of the forest tent caterpillar Malacosoma disstria (Lepidoptera: Lasiocampidae). Bull Entomol Res 92:127–136

30.McClure M, Despland E (2010) Collective foraging patterns of field colonies of Malacosoma disstria caterpillars. Can Entomol 142:1–8

31.McClure M, Cannell E, Despland E (2010) Thermal ecology and behaviour of the nomadic social forager. Malacosoma disstria. Phys Entomol. doi:10.1111/j.1365-3032.2010.00770.x

32.Mooring MS, Hart BL (1992) Animal grouping for protection from parasites: selfish herd and encounter-dilution effects. Behavior 123:173–193

33.Morris RF (1963) The effect of predator age and prey defense on the functional response of Podisus maculiventris Say to the density of Hyphantria cunea Drury. Can Entomol 95:1009–1023

34.Parry D, Spence JR, Volney WJA (1998) Budbreak phenology and natural enemies mediate survival of first-instar forest tent caterpillar (Lepidoptera: Lasiocampidae). Environ Entomol 27:1368–1374

35.Peters RH (1983) The ecological implication of body size. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

36.Peterson SC, Johnson ND, LeGuyader JL (1987) Defensive regurgitation of allelochemicals derived from host cyanogenesis by eastern tent caterpillars. Ecology 68:1268–1272

37.Prop N (1960) Protection against birds and parasites in some species of tenthredinid larvae. Arch Néerl Zool 13:380–447

38.Reader T, Hochuli DF (2003) Understanding gregariousness in a larval Lepidoptera: the roles of host plant, predation, and microclimate. Ecol Entomol 28:729–737

39.Reavey D (1993) Why body size matters to caterpillars. In: Stamp NE, Casey TM (eds) Caterpillars: ecological and evolutionary constraints on foraging. Chapman and Hall, New York, pp 248–279

40.Rogovin K, Randall JA, Kolosova I, Moshkin M (2004) Predation on a social desert rodent, Rhombomys opimus: effect of group size, composition, and location. J Mammal 85:723–730

41.Ronnas C, Larsson S, Pitacco A, Battisti A (2010) Effects of colony size on larval performance in a processionary moth. Ecol Entomol 35:436–445

42.Schultz JC (1983) Habitat selection and foraging tactics of caterpillars in heterogeneous trees. In: Denno RF, McClure MS (eds) Variable plants and herbivores in natural and managed systems. Academic Press, New York, pp 61–90

43.Seyfarth RM, Cheney DL, Marler P (1980) Monkey responses to three different alarm calls: evidence of predator classification and semantic communication. Science 210:801–803

44.Smith GR, Awan AR (2009) The roles of predator identity and group size in the antipredator responses of American toad (Bufo americanus) and bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) tadpoles. Behaviour 146:225–243

45.Tostowaryk W (1971) Relationship between parasitism and predation in diprionid sawflies. Ann Entomol Soc Am 64:1424–1427

46.Uetz GW, Boyle J, Hieber CS, Wilcox SR (2002) Antipredator benefits of group living in colonial web-building spiders: the 'early warning' effect. Anim Behav 63:445–452

47.Vulinec K (1990) Collective security: aggregation by insects as a defense. In: Evans DL, Schmidt JO (eds) Insect defenses. Adaptive mechanisms of prey and predators. State University of New York, Albany, New York, pp 251–288

48.Wajnberg E (2006) Time allocation strategies in insect parasitoids: from ultimate predictions to proximate behavioral mechanisms. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 60:589–611

49.Warren PH, Lawton JH (1987) Invertebrate predator–prey body size relationships: an explanation for upper triangular food webs and patterns in food web structure? Oecologia 74:231–235

50.Webb JK, Du W, Pike D, Shine R (2010) Generalization of predator recognition: velvet geckos display anti-predator behaviours in response to chemicals from non-dangerous elapid snakes. Curr Zool 56:337–342

51.Williams DJM, Parry D and Langor DW (1996) Sampling and identification of forest tent caterpillar parasitoids in the Prairie Provinces. Canadian Forest Service NR, Northern Forestry Centre:Information Report NOR-X-345
All items in Spectrum are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved. The use of items is governed by Spectrum's terms of access.

Repository Staff Only: item control page

Downloads per month over past year

Research related to the current document (at the CORE website)
- Research related to the current document (at the CORE website)
Back to top Back to top