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The effect of plant chemistry on the acceptability of caterpillar prey to the argentine antIridomyrmex humilils (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)

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Abstract

Experiments were performed to test the acceptability of two palatable, cryptic caterpillars, the tobacco hornworm,Manduca sexta, and the cabbage looper,Trichoplusia ni, reared on different diets, to the Argentine ant,Iridomyrmex humilis. Ants preferred larvae reared on artificial diet, groundcherry, or cowpea to tobacco-reared larvae. Ants also preferred larvae reared on artificial diet without nicotine to larvae reared on diet containing nicotine (5% dry wt). Experiments were also performed to test the response of ants to larval extracts and chemicals applied to the surface of palatable prey. Ants did not respond differently to larvae of the potato tuber moth,Phthorimaea operculella, treated with larval extracts or regurgitate from tobacco-reared larvae compared to artificialdiet-reared larvae, but ants were deterred byP. operculella larvae treated with nicotine compared to untreated larvae. The results of this study indicate that caterpillars can derive at least some degree of chemical protection from their food plant without sequestering and storing plant compounds and without the development of elaborate aposematic characteristics.

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Cornelius, M.L., Bernays, E.A. The effect of plant chemistry on the acceptability of caterpillar prey to the argentine antIridomyrmex humilils (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). J Insect Behav 8, 579–593 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01997232

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