Friday Caterpillar Blogging: Flowers or Leaves?

Pieris brassicae

Pieris brassicae Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Caterpillar_of_Pieris_brassicae_9084

Caterpillars of the Large White Butterfly, Pieris brassicae will feed on black mustard, Brassica nigra. The caterpillars can grow and develop on the leaves or the flowers. Adult females prefer to lay eggs on the leaves of flowering plants. Second instar caterpillars will crawl off the leaves and feed on the flowers. Factors favoring flower feeding are slightly faster development on flowers and parasitoid avoidance. Dutch Scientists* found that Cotesia glomerata a parasitoid wasp that specializes on Pieris brassicae prefers to land on leaves, spends more time searching leaves, and is more likely to parasitize caterpillars on leaves than on flowers. Preference for flower feeding may be a combination of better nutrition and parasitoid avoidance.

*Lucas-Barbosa, Dani; Poelman, ErikH.; Aartsma, Yavanna; Snoeren, TjeerdA.L.; van Loon, JoopJ.A.; Dicke, Marcel. 2014. Caught between Parasitoids and Predators – Survival of a Specialist Herbivore on Leaves and Flowers of Mustard Plants. Journal of Chemical Ecology. 40:623-631.
DOI 10.1007/s10886-014-0454-9

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is a retired Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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