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Identification of Factors Influencing Flight Performance of Field-Collected and Laboratory-Reared, Overwintered, and Nonoverwintered Cactus Moths Fed with Field-Collected Host Plants

Sarvary, Mark A., Hight, Stephen D., Carpenter, James E., Bloem, Stephanie, Bloem, Kenneth A., Dorn, Silvia
Environmental entomology 2008 v.37 no.5 pp. 1291
Cactoblastis cactorum, dispersal behavior, insect flight, mass rearing, overwintering, feeding behavior, food plants, Opuntia ficus-indica, cacti and succulents, seasonal variation, body size, age, mating behavior, gender differences
Environmental conditions during egg and larval development may influence the dispersal ability of insect pests, thus requiring seasonal adjustment of control strategies. We studied the longest single flight, total distance flown, and the number of flights initiated by wild Cactoblastis cactorum (Berg) (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) to determine whether the flight performance of overwintered cactus moths with a prolonged feeding phase during development differs from nonoverwintered cactus moths. Pupae of field-collected and laboratory-reared moths were transported together from the United States to Switzerland, and flight mills were used to characterize the flight capacity of 24- to 48-h-old adults during their most active period of the diel cycle. The lack of seasonal variation in flight performance of those moths that developed under controlled environment but were fed with field-collected Opuntia cacti showed that seasonal changes in host plant quality did not affect flight. This consistent flight performance in the mass-reared laboratory population throughout the year is beneficial for sterile insect technique programs, which aim to limit the dispersal of this pest. For field-collected C. cactorum, the larger overwintered females performed similarly to nonoverwintered females, indicating that longer feeding time at lower temperature increases body size but does not influence female flight capacity. Young mated females had a similar flight capacity to unmated ones, suggesting that gravid females may play an important role in invading new habitats. For males, overwintering increased the proportion of long-distance flyers, suggesting that they are well-adapted to locate the more sparsely dispersed females in the spring.