, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 231-245

Trail-Based Communication in Social Caterpillars of Eriogaster lanestris (Lepidoptera: Lasiocampidae)

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Caterpillars of Eriogaster lanestris (Lepidoptera: Lasiocampidae) mark trails as they move between feeding sites and their communal tent. They prefer new trails over aged ones. Hungry caterpillars prefer trails marked by fed caterpillars returning to the tent. Thus successful foragers direct tentmates to profitable food finds, in a manner similar to that of Malacosoma americanum. E. lanestris readily follows trails prepared from 5β-cholestane-3-one, a component of the trail marker of M. americanum, when applied at a rate of ≥10−10 g/cm. In choice tests, they preferred more highly concentrated over weaker trails. New trails are always established in groups, and the velocity increases from early to late caterpillars traversing a new trail.