Eur. J. Entomol. 108 (3): 377-384, 2011 | 10.14411/eje.2011.047

The occurrence of summer diapause in the large white butterfly Pieris brassicae (Lepidoptera: Pieridae): A geographical perspective

Hubert R. SPIETH1, Ulrich PÍRSCHMANN2, Carola TEIWES1
1 Department of Animal Ecology and
2 Department of Animal Behavior, University of Bielefeld, Morgenbreede 45, D-33615 Bielefeld, Germany; e-mail: hubert.spieth@uni-bielefeld.de

At the south western border of its extensive distribution, the multivoltine large white butterfly, Pieris brassicae L., is exceptional in undergoing summer diapause or aestivation. In all other regions investigated, P. brassicae pupae only hibernate. The transitional zone from non-aestivating to aestivating populations is a geographically stable region south of the Pyrenees. The restriction of this response to this region cannot be accounted for in terms of genetics as aestivation is intermediately inherited, with the heritability (h2) of aestivation in inbreeding lines between 0.35 and 0.77. Two hypotheses are presented to explain why this species does not aestivate in more northern regions. First, aestivation is a behaviour that serves to synchronize generations in areas where this species produces a high number of generations per year. Second, aestivation reduces the incidence of parasitism suffered by the butterfly by desynchronizing its life cycle from that of its main parasitoid, Cotesia glomerata. The two hypotheses are not mutually exclusive and both seem to be adaptive where the species is multivoltine.

Keywords: Lepidoptera, Pieridae, aestivation, geographic pattern, heritability of diapause, Pieris brassicae, photoperiodic response

Received: October 19, 2010; Accepted: November 30, 2010; Published: July 1, 2011

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