, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 325–337 | Cite as

Foraging strategies of caterpillars

Leaf damage and possible predator avoidance strategies
  • Bernd Heinrich


An analysis of the foraging behaviors of several species of palatable and unpalatable lepidopterous larvae indicates that palatable caterpillars partition their time between feeding and behaviors that could be related to escape visually oriented predators. Depending on the species, palatable caterpillars do all or several of the following: 1) restrict themselves to the underside of leaves at all times, 2) restrict foraging to night-time, 3) commute to and from their feeding area on leaves, 4) move from the unfinished leaf to a distant leaf after a feeding bout, thus removing themselves from the evidence of their eating, 5) snip off partially-eaten leaves after feeding on them. The less palatable, or unpalatable, caterpillars do not snip off partially-eaten leaves, feed from leaves leaving tattered edges, and are often exposed resting and feeding on the leaf surfaces in direct sunshine. I conclude that some caterpillar foraging behaviors may have evolved under the selective pressure of visually-oriented predators that use leaf-damage as a cue in their searching behavior.


Selective Pressure Leaf Surface Lepidopterous Larva Feeding Bout Distant Leaf 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alcock, J.: Cues used in searching for food by red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus). Behaviour 46, 174–188 (1973)Google Scholar
  2. Casey, T.M.: Activity patterns, body temperatures and thermal ecology in two desert caterpillars (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae). Ecology 57, 485–497 (1976)Google Scholar
  3. Casey, T.M.: Physiological responses to temperature of caterpillars of a desert population of Manduca sexta (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae). Comp. Biochem. Physiol. 57A, 53–58 (1977)Google Scholar
  4. Cerella, J.: Visual classes and natural categories in the pigeon. Human Perc. and Perf. (in press)Google Scholar
  5. Curio, E.: Die Schutzanpassungen dreier Raupen eines Schwärmers (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae) auf Galapagos. Zool. Jb. Syst. 92, 487–522 (1965)Google Scholar
  6. DeRuiter, L.: Some experiments on the camouflage of stick caterpillars. Behavior 4, 223–232 (1952)Google Scholar
  7. Edmunds, M.: Defence in animals: a survey of anti-predator defences. New York: Longman p. 322 (1974)Google Scholar
  8. Heinrich, B.: The effect of leaf geometry on the feeding behavior of the caterpillar Manduca sexta (Sphingidae). Anim. Behav. 19, 119–124 (1971)Google Scholar
  9. Heinrich, B.: Energetics of pollination. Ann. Rev. Ecol. and Syst. 6, 139–170 (1975)Google Scholar
  10. Pyke, G.H., Pulliam, H.R., E.L. Charnov: Optimal foraging theory: A selective review of theory and tests. Quart. Rev. Biol. 52, 137–154 (1977)Google Scholar
  11. Rausher, M.: Search image for leaf shape in a butterfly. Science 200, 1071–1073 (1978)Google Scholar
  12. Ru, N., Kloft, W.J.: Fast absorption and elimination of 32P labelled food in larvae of the cabbage looper, Trichoplusia ni (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). Entomol. Germ. 2(3), 242–248 (1976)Google Scholar
  13. Schoener, T.W.: Theory of feeding strategies. Ann. Rev. Ecol. and Syst. 2, 369–404 (1971)Google Scholar
  14. Sherman, P.W., Watt, W.B.: The thermal ecology of some Colias butterflies. J. comp. Phys. 83, 25–40 (1973)Google Scholar
  15. Thurston, R., Prachuabmoh, O.: Predation by birds on tobacco hornworm larvae infesting tobacco. J. Econ. Ent. 64(6), 1548–1549 (1971)Google Scholar
  16. Young, A.M.: Adaptive strategies of feeding and predator-avoidance in the larvae of the neotropical butterfly, Morpho peleides limpida (Lepidoptera: Morphidae). J.N.Y. Ent. Soc. 80, 60–82 (1972)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bernd Heinrich
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Entomology and ParasitologyUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

Personalised recommendations