Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'Neighbor plants' determine insects' feeding choices

Date:
February 14, 2014
Source:
Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW)
Summary:
Insects are choosier than you might think: whether or not they end up feeding on a particular plant depends on much more than just the species to which that plant belongs. The quality of the individual plant is an important factor as well. As is the variety of other plants growing around it. But what, ultimately, makes an insect choose one plant over another?

In her PhD thesis, Olga Kostenko uses ragwort as an example to show that the ‘neighborhood’ in which a plant grows is more important for insects in the end than how the plant tastes.
Credit: Netherlands Institute of Ecology

Insects are choosier than you might think: whether or not they end up feeding on a particular plant depends on much more than just the species to which that plant belongs. The quality of the individual plant is an important factor as well. As is the variety of other plants growing around it. But what, ultimately, makes an insect choose one plant over another?

Related Articles


It's a question ecologists have struggled with for decades, and the answer could have a major impact on attempts to use insects for controlling crops or attacking outbreak species such as ragwort. Ragwort (Jacobaea vulgaris) is native to the Netherlands but its abundance in areas such as ex-arable fields can make it a pest, as it is toxic to horses and farmers can't use fields where it grows for hay.

In her PhD thesis, Olga Kostenko uses ragwort as an example to show that the 'neighborhood' in which a plant grows is more important for insects in the end than how the plant tastes. If, for instance, ragwort plants grow in a plant community with many tall neighbors, insects will not even notice them. Consequently, the effectiveness of using insects to control such plants is limited.

Field experiments

But before she could weigh the importance of these factors, Kostenko first had to do some pioneering research into plant quality in particular. Most knowledge about the role of plant quality so far had been based on controlled laboratory experiments. Whether it would still be as important a factor under natural conditions was unknown.

Kostenko took up the challenge, planting no fewer than 1750 plants on ex-arable fields at Mossel (Ede, the Netherlands), with remarkable results. Not only did she find that plant quality wasn't the most important factor, she also discovered that the way the plants tasted to insects was actually affected by the neighborhood in which they grew.

And not just the present neighborhood: even plants and insects that inhabited the same spot in the past had an effect on the chemical composition of the next generation of plants. These changes in turn affected the number and the performance of insects feeding on an individual plant.

So for ragwort, having good -- or bad -- neighbors is literally a matter of life and death.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW). "'Neighbor plants' determine insects' feeding choices." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 February 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140214101557.htm>.
Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW). (2014, February 14). 'Neighbor plants' determine insects' feeding choices. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 26, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140214101557.htm
Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW). "'Neighbor plants' determine insects' feeding choices." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140214101557.htm (accessed January 26, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, January 26, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Water Fleas Prepare for Space Voyage

Water Fleas Prepare for Space Voyage

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 26, 2015) Scientists are preparing a group of water fleas for a unique voyage into space. The aquatic crustaceans, known as Daphnia, can be used as a miniature model for biomedical research, and their reproductive and swimming behaviour will be tested for signs of stress while on board the International Space Station. Jim Drury went to meet the team. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Husky Puppy Plays With Ferret

Husky Puppy Plays With Ferret

Rumble (Jan. 26, 2015) It looks like this 2-month-old Husky puppy and the family ferret are going to be the best of friends. Look at how much fun they&apos;re having together! Credit to &apos;Vira&apos;. Video provided by Rumble
Powered by NewsLook.com
Florida Might Legalize Black Bear Hunting

Florida Might Legalize Black Bear Hunting

Newsy (Jan. 24, 2015) A string of black bear attacks has Florida officials considering lifting the ban on hunting the animals to control their population. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Killing Large Portion Of Ape Population

Ebola Killing Large Portion Of Ape Population

Newsy (Jan. 23, 2015) Experts estimate Ebola has wiped out one-third of the world&apos;s gorillas and chimpanzees. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins