Oecologia (2006) 150, 519-526

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Lindstedt Carita, Mappes Johanna, Päivinen Jussi and Varama Martti (2006)
Effects of group size and pine defence chemicals on Diprionid sawfly survival against ant predation
Oecologia 150 (3), 519-526
Abstract: The defence chemicals and behavioural adaptations (gregariousness and active defensive behaviour) of pine sawfly larvae may be effective against ant predation. However, previous studies have tested their defences against very few species of ants, and few experiments have explored ant predation in nature. We studied how larval group size (groups of 5 and 20 in Neodiprion sertifer and 10, 20 and 40 in Diprion pini) and variation in levels of defence chemicals in the host tree (Scots pine, Pinus sylvestris) affect the survival of sawfly larvae. Food preference experiments showed that ants do eat sawfly larvae, although they are not their most preferred food item. According to our results, ant predation significantly increases the mortality rate of sawfly larvae. Larval mortality was minor on pine tree branches where ant traffic was excluded. We also found that a high resin acid concentration in the host tree significantly decreased the mortality of D. pini larvae when ants were present. However, there was no such relationship between the chemical concentrations of the host tree and larval mortality for N. sertifer. Surprisingly, grouping did not help sawfly larvae against ant predation. Mortality risk was the same for all group sizes. The results of the study seemingly contradict previous understanding of the effectiveness of defence mechanisms of pine sawfly against ant predation, and suggest that ants (Formica exsecta in particular) are effective predators of sawfly larvae.
(The abstract is excluded from the Creative Commons licence and has been copied with permission by the publisher.)
Link to article at publishers website


Research topic(s) for pests/diseases/weeds:
environment - cropping system/rotation
biocontrol - natural enemies
Research topic(s) for beneficials or antagonists:
environment/habitat manipulation


Pest and/or beneficial records:

Beneficial Pest/Disease/Weed Crop/Product Country Quarant.


Neodiprion sertifer Pine (Pinus)
Diprion pini Pine (Pinus)
Formica exsecta (predator) Neodiprion sertifer Pine (Pinus)
Formica exsecta (predator) Diprion pini Pine (Pinus)