Host-marking by female pepper weevils, Anthonomus eugenii

Publication Type:Journal Article
Authors:K. M. Addesso, McAuslane, H. J., Stansly, P. A., Schuster, D. J.
Journal:Entomologia Experimentalis Et Applicata
Date Published:December

Pepper weevils, Anthonomus eugenii Cano (Coleoptera: Curculionidae), feed and oviposit in flower buds and small fruits of plants in the genus Capsicum, as well as several species of Solanum (Solanaceae). Females chew a small hole into the fruit, deposit a single egg within the cavity, and seal the hole with a clear anal secretion that hardens into an 'oviposition plug'. Female oviposition behavior was studied in a series of small-arena bioassays to determine whether previous oviposition in Jalapeno pepper fruit deterred subsequent oviposition and to determine what specific cues from an infested fruit influence female behavior. In choice and no-choice tests, females preferred clean fruit to fruit that had received four eggs 24 h previously (i.e., infested fruit), whether the fruit was infested with conspecific eggs or their own eggs. Further bioassays demonstrated that the presence of female frass, or oviposition plugs alone, in the absence of eggs or any fruit damage, was sufficient to deter oviposition. In addition, females given the choice between an infested fruit with the oviposition plug removed or an unaltered infested fruit preferred the fruit with no plugs, even when eggs, frass, and feeding damage were still present. To determine whether females would avoid infested peppers under more natural conditions, we quantified oviposition on infested and uninfested sentinel pepper fruit within individually caged plants and on clean and infested plants caged together. Females consistently laid more eggs on clean fruit than on infested fruits and moved within and among pepper plants to search for more acceptable oviposition sites. We conclude that oviposition plugs, along with contaminated female, but not male, frass contain a deterrent that, in the absence of any other cue, is enough to alert a female that a patch is occupied.

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