Krey, K. L., C. K. Blubaugh, J. T. Van Leuven, and W. E. Snyder. Environmental Entomology, nvz123, https://doi.org/10.1093/ee/nvz123

Soil chemistry and microbial diversity can impact the vigor and nutritive qualities of plants, as well as plants’ ability to deploy anti-herbivore defenses. Soil qualities often vary dramatically on organic versus conventional farms, reflecting the many differences in soil management practices between these farming systems. We examined soil-mediated effects on herbivore performance by growing potato plants (Solanum tuberosum L.) in soils collected from organic or conventional commercial farm fields, and then exposing these plants to herbivory by green peach aphids (Myzus persicae Sulzer, Hemiptera: Aphididae) and/or Colorado potato beetles (Leptinotarsa decemlineata Say, Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). Responses of the two potato pests varied dramatically. Survivorship of Colorado potato beetles was almost 3× higher on plants grown in organic than in conventional soils, but was unaffected by the presence of aphids. In contrast, aphid colony growth was twice as rapid when aphids were reared alone rather than with Colorado potato beetles, but was unaffected by soil type. We saw no obvious differences in soil nutrients when comparing organic and conventional soils. However, we saw a higher diversity of bacteria in organic soils, and potato plants grown in this soil had a lower carbon concentration in foliar tissue. In summary, the herbivore species differed in their susceptibility to soil- versus competitor-mediated effects, and these differences may be driven by microbe-mediated changes in host plant quality. Our results suggest that soil-mediated effects on pest growth can depend on herbivore species and community composition, and that soil management strategies that promote plant health may also increase host quality for pests.

Hufnagel M, Schilmiller AL, Ali J, Szendrei Z. Ecol Entomol. 2017;42(1):33-41.

Maternal preference is a dynamic process and interactions between preference and performance are fundamental for understanding evolutionary ecology and host association in insect-plant interactions. In the present study, the hypothesis of preference-performance was tested by offering solanaceous specialist Leptinotarsa decemlineata (Say) (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) larvae and adult females four plant congeners that ranged in suitability. Larval feeding, development, oviposition, plant glycoalkaloids, and headspace volatiles in the four plant species were analysed to examine the extent of variation, which might explain performance-preference differences. It was found that larval performance was mismatched with adult oviposition preferences. Adults laid more eggs on Solanum immite Dunal plants, which were poor hosts for larval development, feeding, and survival, compared to the other three Solanum species. Chemical plant defenses, in general, did not correlate with performance or preference, but some plant volatiles may have played a role in resolving female choice. Glycoalkaloids such as solanine and chaconine were detected in similar amounts in preferred and non-preferred hosts, but there was significantly more limonene in the headspace of S. immite than in S. tuberosum L. The present findings suggest that we must consider the risk-spreading hypothesis in cases where preference and performance are not positively correlated, particularly in specialist herbivores that can feed on a diversity of congener plants and may attempt to expand their exploits to other solanaceae species.

Crossley MS, Rondon SI, Schoville SD. Evolutionary Applications. 2019;12(4):804-814. doi: 10.1111/eva.12757.

Changing landscape heterogeneity can influence connectivity and alter genetic variation in local populations, but there can be a lag between ecological change and evolutionary responses. Temporal lag effects might be acute in agroecosystems, where land cover has changed substantially in the last two centuries. Here, we evaluate how patterns of an insect pest's genetic differentiation are related to past and present agricultural land cover change over a 150-year period. We quantified change in the amount of potato, Solanum tuberosum L., land cover since 1850 using county-level agricultural census reports, obtained allele frequency data from 7,408 single-nucleotide polymorphism loci, and compared effects of historic and contemporary landscape connectivity on genetic differentiation of Colorado potato beetle, Leptinotarsa decemlineata Say, in two agricultural landscapes in the United States. We found that potato land cover peaked in Wisconsin in the early 1900s, followed by rapid decline and spatial concentration, whereas it increased in amount and extent in the Columbia Basin of Oregon and Washington beginning in the 1960s. In both landscapes, we found small effect sizes of landscape resistance on genetic differentiation, but a 20× to 1,000× larger effect of contemporary relative to historic landscape resistances. Demographic analyses suggest population size trajectories were largely consistent among regions and therefore are not likely to have differentially impacted the observed patterns of population structure in each region. Weak landscape genetic associations might instead be related to the coarse resolution of our historical land cover data. Despite rapid changes in agricultural landscapes over the last two centuries, genetic differentiation among L. decemlineata populations appears to reflect ongoing landscape change. The historical landscape genetic framework employed in this study is broadly applicable to other agricultural pests and might reveal general responses of pests to agricultural land-use change.

Wetzel WC, Aflitto NC, Thaler JS. 2018. Ecology. 99(10):2338-2347. doi: 10.1002/ecy.2472.

A growing number of studies have manipulated intraspecific plant diversity and found dramatic changes in the densities of associated insect herbivores and their predators. While these studies have been essential for quantifying the net ecological consequences of intraspecific plant diversity, they have been less effective at uncovering the ways in which plant diversity alters trophic interactions within arthropod communities. We manipulated intraspecific plant diversity and predation risk in the field in a factorial design to reveal how a mixture of plant genotypes changes the response of an herbivorous beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) to a common stink bug predator (Podisus maculiventris). We repeated the manipulations twice across the ontogeny of the beetle to examine how the effects of diversity on the predator-prey interaction differ between larval and adult stages. We found that intraspecific plant diversity, mixtures of susceptible and resistant varieties of potato (Solanum tuberosum), reduced larval survival by 20% and adult oviposition by 34%, which surprisingly put survival and oviposition lower in the mixed-genotype plots than in the resistant monocultures. Moreover, we found that predation risk reduced larval survival 25% and 11% in resistant and susceptible monocultures, respectively, but had no effect in the mixture. This result indicated that our genotypic mixing treatment interacted nonadditively with predation risk such that plant diversity altered the predator-prey interaction by changing the responses of the beetles to their stink bug predators. In addition, even though predation risk reduced larval survival, it increased adult overwintering survival by 9%, independently of plant treatment, suggesting that these interactions change through ontogeny. A key implication of our study is that plant diversity influences arthropod communities not only by changing resource quality, as past studies have suggested, but also by changing interactions between species within the arthropod community.

 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.

Rasoolizadeh A, Goulet MC, Guay JF, Cloutier C, Michaud D. J Insect Physiol. 2018;106:125-133. doi: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2017.03.001.

Herbivorous insects use complex protease complements to process plant proteins, useful to adjust their digestive functions to the plant diet and to elude the antidigestive effects of dietary protease inhibitors. We here assessed whether basic profiles and diet-related adjustments of the midgut protease complement may vary among populations of the insect herbivore Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata). Two laboratory colonies of this insect were used as models, derived from insect samples collected in potato fields ∼1200 km distant from each other in North America. Synchronized 4th-instar larvae reared on potato were kept on this plant, or switched to tomato or eggplant, to compare their midgut cathepsin activities and content of intestain Cys proteases under different diet regimes. Cathepsin D activity, cathepsin L activity, cathepsin B activity and total intestain content shortly after larval molting on potato leaves were about two times lower in one population compared to the other. By comparison, cathepsin D activity, cathepsin B activity, total intestain content and relative abundance of the most prominent intestain families were similar in the two populations after three days regardless of the plant diet, unlike cathepsin L activity and less prominent intestain families showing population-associated variability. Variation in Cys protease profiles translated into the differential efficiency of a Cys protease inhibitor, tomato cystatin SlCYS8, to inhibit cathepsin L activity in midgut extracts of the two insect groups. Despite quantitative differences, SlCYS8 single variants engineered to strongly inhibit Cys proteases showed improved potency against cathepsin L activity of either population. These data suggest the feasibility of designing cystatins to control L. decemlineata that are effective against different populations of this insect. They underline, on the other hand, the practical relevance of considering natural variability of the protease complement among L. decemlineata target populations, eventually determinant in the success or failure of cystatin-based control strategies on a large-scale basis.

Tigreros N, Wang EH, Thaler JS. Funct Ecol. 2018;32(4):982-989. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.13046.

Prey species can respond to the risk of predation with a range of antipredator behaviours and physiological changes. While these responses increase chances of survival, they often involve feeding reductions and greater energy expenditure (e.g. increases in metabolic rate). As a consequence, a prey response is constrained by its own nutritional condition. While a number of studies indeed demonstrate that prey in better nutritional condition have stronger antipredator behaviours, we do not yet understand how condition impacts the physiological component of the prey's response. Previous research revealed that Leptinotarsa decemlineata beetles experiencing predation risk improve their offspring's nutritional condition by promoting intraclutch egg cannibalism. Importantly, egg cannibalism decreased offspring vulnerability by increasing larval behavioural responses to chronic predation risk. In this study we test if egg cannibalism similarly impacts larval physiological responses by comparing how risk of predation in cannibals and non-cannibals affects their behaviour (e.g. feeding reductions), metabolic rate and energy stores. We found that non-cannibals did not exhibit antipredator behaviours but responded physiologically, by increasing metabolic rates. In contrast, cannibals responded behaviourally, suppressing feeding, but without altering metabolism. While cannibals and non-cannibals coupled food intake and energy expenditure differently, both reached similar growth rates and had similar energy stores when facing chronic predation risk. These results indicate that increases in predator avoidance behaviours are not merely mirrored by a stronger physiological response. Instead, changes in metabolism appear to ameliorate, within our experimental conditions, the costs associated with the behavioural response. Prey in poorer nutritional state are not less responsive to predators but appear to rely more heavily on physiological responses, demonstrating that how prey integrates behaviour and physiology depends on their own nutritional state.

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.

Maliszewska J, Tęgowska E. Int J Pest Manage. 2017;63(4):331-340.

The effectiveness of insecticides differs with changes in temperature, but insecticide toxicities are determined at constant temperatures. Constant thermal conditions do not occur in the field, where insects can change their behaviors to achieve a preferred temperature. The aim of this study was to assess whether the choice of ambient temperature affects the mortality rate of intoxicated firebugs and Colorado potato beetles. The insects' mortality following insecticide exposure was monitored at constant temperatures (15, 25, and 35°C) as well as in a thermal gradient system, where the insects could freely select their preferred ambient temperature. Firebugs treated with oxadiazine showed 58% higher mortality when held at a constant temperature post-treatment compared to mortality levels seen when able to choose a preferred temperature in a thermal gradient. Similar results were seen in Colorado potato beetles treated with oxadiazine (15%-33% higher mortality in constant vs. preferred temperature) or organophosphate (36% higher mortality in constant vs. preferred temperature). The insects' ability to mitigate the impacts of pesticide exposure by selecting more beneficial thermal conditions is an important consideration for pest management. Therefore, the application rates of insecticides used under field conditions should be additionally analyzed to take this factor into account.