Canadian Forest Service Publications

Sex biased intra-tree oviposition site selection and larval foraging behavior of a specialist herbivore. 2009. Johns, R.C.; Quiring, D.T.; Ostaff, D.P. Entomologia experimentalis et applicata 132: 264-274.

Year: 2009

Issued by: Atlantic Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 31126

Language: English

Availability: Order paper copy (free)

Mark record


Heterogeneity in the quality of oviposition and feeding sites within plants can significantly influence the distribution and abundance of herbivorous insects, but remains poorly understood. Field surveys and a manipulative study were conducted to evaluate the influence of variation within the crown of black spruce, Picea mariana (Mill.) B.S.P. (Pinaceae), on adult oviposition and larval feeding behavior of yellowheaded spruce sawfly, Pikonema alaskensis Rohwer (Hymenoptera: Tenthredinidae). Most eggs were laid in the mid to lower crown of 1.5–2 m tall trees. However, most of the few eggs that were laid in the upper crown (i.e., whorl 2) were female. Fourth and fifth instars dispersed acropetally, from the mid and lower to the upper crown, causing high defoliation in the upper crown. Late-instar females were generally more abundant than males on the leader, the most apical shoot on a tree where eggs and early instars rarely occurred, strongly suggesting that more females than males disperse acropetally. This hypothesis was supported in a manipulative experiment, where only 15–20% of larvae in all-male broods, but almost three-quarters of larvae in mixed broods, dispersed to the upper crown. To our knowledge, this is only the second study to explicitly demonstrate preferential allocation of progeny sex through oviposition site selection by a herbivorous insect, and the first study to unambiguously demonstrate sex-biased dispersal by the juveniles of an insect whose adult females can fly. This study emphasizes the important role of intra-plant variation in shaping both oviposition site selection and the dispersal behavior of juvenile phytophagous insects within their hosts, and suggests that sex-biased foraging behaviors may be necessary for some insects to accommodate the respective needs of immature females and males within heterogeneous host plants.