Behavior of newly hatched potato tuber moth larvae,Phthorimaea operculella Zell. (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae), in relation to their host plants


A study was made of neonate larvae of Phthorimaea operculella.Host finding from soil-laid eggs and dispersal from hosts and nonhosts were first examined. Of first-instar larvae hatching from soil-laid eggs, 80% found the potato plant while roughly 50% found each of the other three plants (datura, tobacco, and tomato). Dispersal from potato, datura, and tobacco was very low, while on tomato it was higher and a high mortality was observed in the 24 h period. Dispersal from nonhost plants was high. Behavior on leaves of hosts and non-hosts is described and some host-plant specific behaviors are identified. Effects on behavior of some of the physical and chemical factors are described. Methylene dichloride extracts of potato leaf wax reduced locomotion rates and the number of turns during locomotion. Also methylene dichloride extract and, to a lesser extent, methanol extract caused biting behavior.

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Varela, L.G., Bernays, E.A. Behavior of newly hatched potato tuber moth larvae,Phthorimaea operculella Zell. (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae), in relation to their host plants. J Insect Behav 1, 261–275 (1988).

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Key words

  • potato tuber moth
  • Phthorimaea opercullela
  • host plant
  • larval dispersal
  • feeding
  • behavior