Voigt, D., M.Varenberg, J. Schuppert,, S.N. Gorb. Journal of Insect Physiology, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jinsphys.2020.104158

Green dock beetles Gastrophysa viridula and Colorado potato beetles Leptinotarsa decemlineata having distinctly different body mass and gait habits were compared with respect to their tarsal morphology and attachment ability. The focus laid on shapes and dimensions of tenent setae related to the peeling line, i.e., the sum of widths of all thin-film elements participating in contact. High-speed rotation of the two leaf beetle species attached to the horizontal and vertical sides of a Plexiglass drum resulted in higher attachment forces of the heavier beetle species that has a larger number of tarsal setae and a larger peeling line length. However, normalizing the measured forces with the corresponding peeling line lengths led to a reversed relationship. This allowed us to assume that the design of adhesive setae in different leaf beetle species matches the requirements imposed by their habitats. In accordance with the theory of thin film peeling, tangential forces were found to be higher than normal forces. The attachment system of females was found to exhibit stronger functional efficiency, which can be correlated to the morphology of their setae.

Aflitto NC, Thaler JS. 2020. Ecological Entomology. 45(5):1190–1199.

The influence of predator cues on the behaviour of prey is well supported in the literature; however, a clear understanding of how predator cues affect prey in variable environmental conditions and over longer time scales is needed to better understand the underlying mechanisms. Here, we measure how predator odors affect herbivore colonization, abundance, oviposition, and plant damage across two growing seasons. The study system consisted of Leptinotarsa decemlineata (Colorado potato beetle) as prey, and the aggregation pheromone of live Podisus maculiventris (spined soldier bug) as the predator cue in a potato field. In 2016, the amount of feeding damage by early beetle colonists was lower in predator odor-treated plots, reducing plant damage by 22%. Larval abundance was also reduced in treated plots in 2016. Beetle abundance and damage in 2017 was similar in the treatment and control plots. Two mechanisms were investigated to better understand why prey response to the predator odor treatment weakened over the first season, including changes in predator odor cue strength and prey habituation. Predator odor cue strength emerged as a likely explanation, as dispensers, which released a synthetic predator pheromone over the entire season, reduced the probability of finding damage more consistently than the live predator treatment. These results suggest that temporal patterns of predator cue release and strength may drive prey response across the season, underscoring the importance of cue release-rate and consistency in both species interactions and for the future application of modifying insect behaviour using non-consumptive effects in agricultural systems.

 Boiteau G, MacKinley P. Can Entomol. 2017;149(2):174-190. doi: 10.4039/tce.2016.52.

This laboratory study confirmed that the strategy of adult terrestrial Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata (Say); Coleoptera Chrysomelidae) to survive the threat of drowning in water is based on avoidance of water crossings. It also showed that beetles at the surface of a body of water after failing to avoid it, long considered limited to passive floating and phoretic transport were in fact likely to rely on a complex fight or flee response. Beetles showed capacity to swim in a pattern similar to land foraging beetles. Beetles also tolerated submergence and walked underwater. These active behaviours should improve their probability of finding shore or refuge for longer survival. Results confirmed that Colorado potato beetles are likely to accumulate near water features in the potato agro-ecosystem landscape but suggest that successful crossings and colonisation of crops on the other side are more likely than previously expected. On a larger scale, new information provided by this study combined with our knowledge of dominant winds and currents should make it possible for future research to better predict the probability of surviving encounters with water and the orientation of invasive Colorado potato beetle colonisers dispersing at the surface of bodies of water.

Hermann SL, Thaler JS. Oecologia. 2018;188(4):945-952. doi: 10.1007/s00442-018-4202-7.

Predator-prey interactions primarily focus on prey life-stages that are consumed. However, animals in less vulnerable life-stages might also be influenced by the presence of a predator, making our understanding of predation-related impacts across all life-stages of prey essential. It has been previously demonstrated that Podisus maculiventris is a voracious predator of eggs and larvae of Leptinotarsa decemlineata, and that larvae will alter their behavior to avoid predation. However, the adult beetles are not readily consumed by P. maculiventris, raising the question of whether they will respond to predators to protect themselves or their offspring. Here, we examine the effect of predation risk by P. maculiventris, on three adult behaviors of L. decemlineata; colonization, oviposition, and feeding, and the resulting impact on host plant damage. In an open-field test, there was no difference in natural beetle colonization between plots with predation risk and control treatments. However, subsequent host plant damage by adult beetles was 63.9% less in predation risk treatments. Over the lifetime of adult beetles in field mesocosms, per capita feeding was 23% less in the predation risk treatment. Beetle oviposition was 37% less in the presence of predators in a short-term, greenhouse assay, and marginally reduced in longer term field mesocosms. Our results indicate that predation risk can drive relatively invulnerable adult herbivores to adjust behaviors that affect themselves (feeding) and their offspring (oviposition). Thus, the full impact of predator presence must be considered across the prey life cycle.

Meng Q, Q Xu, T Zhu, L Jin, K Fu, W Guo, G Li. PLoS Genetics. 2019;15(1):e1007423. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1007423.

Many animals exploit several niches sequentially during their life cycles, a fitness referred to as ontogenetic niche shift (ONS). To successfully accomplish ONS, transition between development stages is often coupled with changes in one or more primitive, instinctive behaviors. Yet, the underlining molecular mechanisms remain elusive. We show here that Leptinotarsa decemlineata larvae finish their ONS at the wandering stage by leaving the plant and pupating in soil. At middle wandering phase, larvae also switch their phototactic behavior, from photophilic at foraging period to photophobic. We find that enhancement of juvenile hormone (JH) signal delays the phototactic switch, and vise verse. Moreover, RNA interference (RNAi)-aided knockdown of LdPTTH (prothoracicotropic hormone gene) or LdTorso (PTTH receptor gene) impairs avoidance response to light, a phenotype nonrescuable by 20-hydroxyecdysone. Consequently, the RNAi beetles pupate at the soil surface or in shallow layer of soil, with most of them failing to construct pupation chambers. Furthermore, a combination of depletion of LdPTTH/LdTorso and disturbance of JH signal causes no additive effects on light avoidance response and pupation site selection. Finally, we establish that TrpA1 (transient receptor potential (TRP) cation channel) is necessary for light avoidance behavior, acting downstream of PTTH. We conclude that JH/PTTH cascade concomitantly regulates metamorphosis and the phototaxis switch, to drive ONS of the wandering beetles from plant into soil to start the immobile pupal stage.

Yamano Y, Sasaki H, Wada A. Chem Pharm Bull. 2017;65(10):940-944. doi: 10.1248/cpb.c17-00462.

A mild deacylation method for 3,5-dinitrobenzoates using methanolic solutions of amines, such as dialkylamines, was developed. The method's versatility was confirmed by applying it to synthesizing a key intermediate for Colorado potato beetle pheromone.

Wetzel WC, Thaler JS. Oecologia. 2018;186(2):483-493. doi: 10.1007/s00442-017-4034-x.

A consequence of plant diversity is that it can allow or force herbivores to consume multiple plant species, which studies indicate can have major effects on herbivore fitness. An underappreciated but potentially important factor modulating the consequences of multi-species diets is the extent to which herbivores can choose their diets versus being forced to consume specific host-plant sequences. We examined how host-selection behavior alters the effects of multi-species diets using the Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) and diets of potato plants (Solanum tuberosum), tomato plants (S. lycopersicum), or both. When we gave beetles simultaneous access to both plants, allowing them to choose their diets, their final mass was within 0.1% of the average mass across both monocultures and 43.6% lower than mass on potato, the superior host in monoculture. This result indicates these beetles do not benefit from a mixed diet, and that the presence of tomato, an inferior but suitable host, makes it difficult to use potato. In contrast, when we forced beetles to switch between host species, their final mass was 37.8% less than the average of beetles fed constant diets of either host species and within 3.5% of the mass on tomato even though they also fed on potato. This indicates preventing host-selection behavior magnified the negative effects of this multi-species diet. Our results imply that ecological contexts that constrain host-selection or force host-switches, such as communities with competition or predation, will lead plant species diversity to reduce the performance of insect herbivores.

Booth E, Alyokhin A, Pinatti S.  Insect Science. 2017;24(2):295-302. doi: 10.1111/1744-7917.12286.

Cannibalism, or intraspecific predation, can play a major role in changing individual fitness and population processes. In insects, cannibalism frequently occurs across life stages, with cannibals consuming a smaller or more vulnerable stage. Predation of adult insects on one another is considered to be uncommon. We investigated adult cannibalism in the Colorado potato beetle, Leptinotarsa decemlineata (Say), which is an oligophagous herbivore specializing on plants in family Solanaceae, and an important agricultural pest. Under laboratory conditions, starvation and crowding encouraged teneral adults to feed upon each other, which reduced their weight loss during the period of starvation. However, pupae were attacked and consumed before adults. Injured beetles had a higher probability of being cannibalized than intact beetles. Males were more frequently attacked than females, but that appeared to be a function of their smaller size rather than other gender-specific traits. Cannibalizing eggs at a larval stage did not affect beetle propensity to cannibalize adults at an adult stage. When given a choice between conspecific adults and mealworms, the beetles preferred to eat conspecifics. Cannibalistic behavior, including adult cannibalism, could be important for population persistence in this species.

Bozov PI, Georgieva YP. Natural Product Communications. 2017;12(3):327-328.

Fourteen neo-clerodane diterpenoids isolated from Scutellaria altissima (Lamiaceae) were tested for insect antifeedant activity against Leptinotarsa decemlineata Say. Potato leaf disks treated with small amounts of the compounds (concentration 1000, 100, 10 ppm) resulted in good to very good antifeedant activity. Clerodin (1), scutecyprin (11) and 11-epi-scutecolumnin C (12) showed strong feeding inhibition at 1000 ppm and exhibited significant antifeedant activity at a concentration of 100 ppm. Activity was established by calculating the feeding ratio (FR) between the consumed areas of treated disks (CTD) and control disks (CCD). For comparison, FR50 values were determined as the FR at a CCD of 50%. Structural features of the compounds associated with the changes in activity and structure-antifeedant activity relationships are discussed. For the first time the anti-feedant activity has been evaluated of neo-clerodane diterpenoids with an unusual R-configuration of the carbon atom C-11.

Tigreros, N., Norris, R. H., Wang, E. H. and Thaler, J. S. (2017) Ecol Lett. doi:10.1111/ele.12752

Theory on condition-dependent risk-taking indicates that when prey are in poor condition, their anti-predator responses should be weak. However, variation in responses resulting from differences in condition is generally considered an incidental by-product of organisms living in a heterogeneous environment. Using Leptinotarsa decemlineata beetles and stinkbug (Podisus maculiventris) predators, we hypothesised that in response to predation risk, parents improve larval nutritional condition and expression of anti-predator responses by promoting intraclutch cannibalism. We showed that mothers experiencing predation risk increase production of unviable trophic eggs, which assures provisioning of an egg meal to the newly hatched offspring. Next, we experimentally demonstrated that egg cannibalism reduces L. decemlineata vulnerability to predation by improving larval nutritional condition and expression of anti-predator responses. Intraclutch cannibalism in herbivorous insects might be a ubiquitous strategy, aimed to overcome the dual challenge of feeding on protein-limited diets while living under constant predation threat.