Bulletin of Mathematical Biology

, Volume 72, Issue 6, pp 1334–1360 | Cite as

Modeling the Effects of Developmental Variation on Insect Phenology

  • Brian P. YurkEmail author
  • James A. Powell
Original Article


Phenology, the timing of developmental events such as oviposition or pupation, is highly dependent on temperature; since insects are ectotherms, the time it takes them to complete a life stage (development time) depends on the temperatures they experience. This dependence varies within and between populations due to variation among individuals that is fixed within a life stage (giving rise to what we call persistent variation) and variation from random effects within a life stage (giving rise to what we call random variation). It is important to understand how both types of variation affect phenology if we are to predict the effects of climate change on insect populations.

We present three nested phenology models incorporating increasing levels of variation. First, we derive an advection equation to describe the temperature-dependent development of a population with no variation in development time. This model is extended to incorporate persistent variation by introducing a developmental phenotype that varies within a population, yielding a phenotype-dependent advection equation. This is further extended by including a diffusion term describing random variation in a phenotype-dependent Fokker–Planck development equation. These models are also novel because they are formulated in terms of development time rather than developmental rate; development time can be measured directly in the laboratory, whereas developmental rate is calculated by transforming laboratory data. We fit the phenology models to development time data for mountain pine beetles (MPB) (Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins [Coleoptera: Scolytidae]) held at constant temperatures in laboratory experiments. The nested models are parameterized using a maximum likelihood approach. The results of the parameterization show that the phenotype-dependent advection model provides the best fit to laboratory data, suggesting that MPB phenology may be adequately described in terms of persistent variation alone. MPB phenology is simulated using phloem temperatures and attack time distributions measured in central Idaho. The resulting emergence time distributions compare favorably to field observations.


Phenology Mountain pine beetle Fokker–Planck equation Mathematical model 


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Copyright information

© Society for Mathematical Biology 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of MathematicsHope CollegeHollandUSA
  2. 2.Department of Mathematics and StatisticsUtah State UniversityLoganUSA

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