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?

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 August 20, 2014 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 August 20, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) Scientists have developed a new device that mimics the way octopuses blend in with their surroundings to hide from dangerous predators. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Disquieting Times for Malaysia's 'fish Listeners'

Disquieting Times for Malaysia's 'fish Listeners'

AFP (Aug. 19, 2014) Malaysia's last "fish listeners" -- practitioners of a dying local art of listening underwater to locate their quarry -- try to keep the ancient technique alive in the face of industrial trawling and the depletion of stocks. Duration: 02:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
USDA Cracks Down On Imports From Foreign Puppy Mills

USDA Cracks Down On Imports From Foreign Puppy Mills

Newsy (Aug. 18, 2014) New USDA measures to regulate dog imports aim to crack down on buying dogs from overseas puppy mills. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bone Marrow Drug Regrows Hair In Some Alopecia Patients

Bone Marrow Drug Regrows Hair In Some Alopecia Patients

Newsy (Aug. 18, 2014) Researchers performed an experiment using an FDA-approved drug known as ruxolitinib. They found it to be successful in the majority of patients. 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:
from the past week

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