Influence of Host Plant Structure and Microclimate on the Abundance and Behavior of a Tephritid Fly
Microclimate and host plant architecture significantly influence the abundance and behavior of insects. However, most research in this field has focused at the invertebrate assemblage level, with few studies at the single-species level. Using wild Solanum mauritianum plants, we evaluated the influence of plant structure (number of leaves and branches and height of plant) and microclimate (temperature, relative humidity, and light intensity) on the abundance and behavior of a single insect species, the monophagous tephritid fly Bactrocera cacuminata (Hering). Abundance and oviposition behavior were signficantly influenced by the host structure (density of foliage) and associated microclimate. Resting behavior of both sexes was influenced positively by foliage density, while temperature positively influenced the numbers of resting females. The number of ovipositing females was positively influenced by temperature and negatively by relative humidity. Feeding behavior was rare on the host plant, as was mating. The relatively low explanatory power of the measured variables suggests that, in addition to host plant architecture and associated microclimate, other cues (e.g., olfactory or visual) could affect visitation and use of the larval host plant by adult fruit flies. For 12 plants observed at dusk (the time of fly mating), mating pairs were observed on only one tree. Principal component analyses of the plant and microclimate factors associated with these plants revealed that the plant on which mating was observed had specific characteristics (intermediate light intensity, greater height, and greater quantity of fruit) that may have influenced its selection as a mating site.
Journal of Insect Behavior