, Volume 73, Issue 4, pp 601–608 | Cite as

Oviposition site selection in Cactoblastis cactorum (Lepidoptera): constraints and compromises

  • H. G. Robertson
Original Papers


Oviposition by Cactoblastis cactorum on Opuntia ficus-indica and O. aurantiaca was assessed from the positioning of egg sticks on plants in the field. The number of egg sticks laid on O. ficus-indica plants was affected by: (1) plant size; (2) moth emergence near the plant; (3) cladode condition; and (4) plant conspicuousness. These factors contributed towards the clumping of egg sticks on plants. There was no apparent oviposition preference for one of the two host plant species despite the fact that egg predation was higher and fecundity lower on O. aurantiaca. The selection of a site for oviposition on the host plants was influenced by: (1) cladode condition; (2) height above ground; and (3) shelter from wind during oviposition. Succulent cladodes were the favoured sites for oviposition. The evidence suggests that in C. cactorum, oviposition site selection is largely the net result of a compromise between oviposition behaviour selected for increasing the probability of juvenile survival and oviposition behaviour selected for increasing the probability of laying the full complement of eggs. In addition, environmental and physiological factors such as wind and wing-loading, are thought to place constraints on the range of sites available for oviposition.

Key words

Cactoblastis Opuntia Oviposition 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Andrews KL, Barnes MM, Josserand SA (1980) Dispersal and oviposition by navel orangeworm moths. Environ Ent 9:525–529Google Scholar
  2. Annecke DP, Moran VC (1978) Critical reviews of biological pest control in South Africa. 2. The prickly pear, Opuntia ficusindica (L.) Miller. J Entomol Soc South Afr 41:161–188Google Scholar
  3. Baker RR (1978) The evolutionary ecology of animal migration. Hodder & Stoughton, LondonGoogle Scholar
  4. Bellows TS, Owens JC, Huddleston EW (1984) Flight activity and dispersal of range caterpillar moths, Hemileuca oliviae (Lepidoptera: Saturniidae). Can Ent 116:247–252Google Scholar
  5. Courtney SP (1982a) Coevolution of pierid butterflies and their cruciferous foodplants IV. Crucifer apparency and Acanthocharis cardamines (L.) oviposition. Oecologia (Berlin) 52:258–265Google Scholar
  6. Courtney SP (1982b) Coevolution of pierid butterflies and their cruciferous foodplants V. Habitat selection, community structure and speciation. Oecologia (Berlin) 54:101–107Google Scholar
  7. Courtney SP (1983) Models of hostplant location by butterflies: the effect of search images and search efficiency. Oecologia (Berlin) 59:317–321Google Scholar
  8. Courtney SP (1984) The evolution of egg clustering by butterflies and other insects. Am Nat 123:276–281Google Scholar
  9. Debach P, Huffaker CB, MacPhee AW (1976) Evaluation of the impact of natural enemies. In: Huffaker CB, Messenger PS (eds) Theory and practice of biological control. Academic Press, New York, pp 255–285Google Scholar
  10. Dodd AP (1940) The biological campaign against prickly-pear. Commonwealth Prickly-pear Board: BrisbaneGoogle Scholar
  11. Green GW, Pointing PJ (1962) Flight and dispersal of the European pine shoot moth, Rhyacionia buoliana (Schiff.) II. Natural dispersal of egg-laden females. Can Ent 94:299–314Google Scholar
  12. Greenbank DO, Schaefer GW, Rainey RC (1980) Spruce budworm (Lepidoptera: Tortricidae) moth flight and dispersal: new understanding from canopy observations, radar, and aircraft. Mem Entomol Soc Can 110:1–49Google Scholar
  13. Jaenike J (1978) On optimal oviposition behaviour in phytophagous insects. Theor Popul Biol 14:350–356Google Scholar
  14. Johnson CG (1969) Migration and dispersal of insects by flight. Methuen, LondonGoogle Scholar
  15. Levins R, MacArthur R (1969) An hypothesis to explain the incidence of monophagy. Ecology 50:910–911Google Scholar
  16. Mann J (1969) Cactus-feeding insects and mites. Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C. Bulletin 256Google Scholar
  17. Monro J (1967) The exploitation and conservation of resources by populations of insects. J Anim Ecol 36:531–547Google Scholar
  18. Myers JH, Monro J, Murray N (1981) Egg clumping, host plant selection and population regulation in Cactoblastis cactorum (Lepidoptera). Oecologia (Berlin) 51:7–13Google Scholar
  19. Osmond CB, Monro J (1981) Prickly pear. In: Carr DJ, Carr SM (eds) Plants and man in Australia. Academic Press, Sydney, pp 194–222Google Scholar
  20. Pettey FW (1948) The biological control of prickly pears in South Africa. Union South Afr, Dept Agric Sci Bull 271Google Scholar
  21. Robertson HG (1985) The ecology of Cactoblastis cactorum (Berg) (Lepidoptera: Phycitidae) in relation to its effectiveness as a biological control agent of prickly pear and jointed cactus in South Africa. Unpublished PhD thesis, Rhodes University, GrahamstownGoogle Scholar
  22. Sanders CJ, Lucuik GS (1975) Effects of photoperiod and size on flight activity and oviposition in the eastern spruce budworm (Lepidoptera: Tortricidae). Can Ent 107:1289–1299Google Scholar
  23. Singer MC (1984) Butterfly-hostplant relationships: host quality, adult choice and larval success. In: Vane-Wright RI, Ackery PR (eds) The biology of butterflies. Academic Press, London, pp 81–88Google Scholar
  24. Sokal RR, Rohlf FJ (1981) Biometry 2nd edition. W.H. Freeman, San FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  25. Stamp NE (1980) Egg deposition patterns in butterflies: why do some species cluster their eggs rather than deposit them singly? Am Nat 115:367–380Google Scholar
  26. Zimmermann HG, Moran VC (1982) Ecology and management of cactus weeds in South Africa. South Afr J Sci 78:314–320Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. G. Robertson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Zoology and EntomologyRhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations