Journal of Insect Behavior

, Volume 25, Issue 6, pp 529–542 | Cite as

Prey Abundance, Intraguild Predators, Ants and the Optimal Egg-laying Strategy of a Furtive Predator

  • Arnaud Sentis
  • Éric Lucas
  • William L. Vickery


Larval performance can have a great influence on female oviposition choice, especially in insects where the newly hatched offspring are unable to move any great distance to find an appropriate food source. For furtive predators, like the predatory midge Aphidoletes aphidimyza which preys on aphids while simultaneously residing and remaining undetected within their colonies, oviposition behaviour is crucial because these slow moving offspring are restrained to their natal colony. Here we develop a new model for predicting the optimum number of eggs that a furtive predator should lay in an aphid colony, based on: (1) the number of available prey (aphids); (2) the protection from predation conferred by “hiding” in the colony and (3) the effects of interspecific and intraspecific competition. We also explore the effect of aphid attendance by ants on oviposition behavior. We compare model predictions with empirical field observations of the clutch sizes of A. aphidimyza in apple orchards. The simplest of the four models best fits the observed data and provides the first field evidence that a furtive predator adjusts its clutch size as a function of prey density. The slope of the relationship between clutch size and aphid number is quite close to that predicted by our models suggesting that intra-clutch competition is the main factor governing furtive aphid midge oviposition choice.


Optimal egg-laying intraguild predation Aphidoletes aphidimyza ants furtive predation Coccinellidae 



This work was funded by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Discovery Grants to Éric Lucas and William L. Vickery. We thank Maryse Desrochers and Néomie Bourdon-Charest help with the field study. We thank the institut de recherche et de développement en agroenvironnement (IRDA) and parc national du Mont St-Bruno for giving us access to field sites. We thank Simon Daoust, Jacques Brodeur, Denis Réale, and two anonymous reviewer for comments on an earlier version of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arnaud Sentis
    • 1
  • Éric Lucas
    • 1
  • William L. Vickery
    • 1
  1. 1.Groupe de recherche en écologie comportementale et animale, Département des sciences biologiquesUniversité du Québec à MontréalMontréalCanada

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