Eur. J. Entomol. 108 (4): 581-586, 2011 | 10.14411/eje.2011.075

Seed preferences of Pyrrhocoris apterus (Heteroptera: Pyrrhocoridae): Are there specialized trophic populations?

Marta KRISTENOVÁ, Alice EXNEROVÁ, Pavel ŠTYS
Department of Zoology, Charles University Prague, Viničná 7, CZ 12844 Prague, Czech Republic;

The populations of the firebug Pyrrhocoris apterus (Heteroptera: Pyrrhocoridae) in Europe exhibit three kinds of host plant associations: feeding on seeds of (1) Tilia spp. (Tiliaceae), (2) Malvaceae (s. str.), and (3) Robinia pseudacacia (Fabaceae). The three host plant taxa often grow in different habitats and localities. We have tested the hypothesis that P. apterus forms on different host plants specialised "trophic populations" which also influence its food preference. We have collected P. apterus from localities with Tilia platyphyllos, Malva neglecta or Robinia pseudacacia as host plants and tested their preferences in a multiple choice test involving seeds of Tilia cordata, T. platyphyllos, Althaea officinalis, Alcea rosea and Robinia pseudacacia. The original host plant of P. apterus population had no influence on food preferences. However, the preferences differed between adults and the third instar larvae. The adults preferred seeds of Robinia pseudacacia followed by Althaea officinalis, while the preferences of larvae were less pronounced and ranked in order Althaea officinalis, Robinia pseudacacia, and Tilia platyphyllos. Existence of trophic populations of P. apterus was not confirmed by our experiment. Durations of feeding were longer on preferred species of seeds in both adults and larvae.

Keywords: Heteroptera, Pyrrhocoridae, Pyrrhocoris apterus, feeding duration, feeding behaviour, trophic population, seed preferences, Tilia platyphyllos, Althaea officinalis, Robinia pseudacacia

Received: January 24, 2011; Accepted: April 21, 2011; Published: October 3, 2011

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