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Within‐generation dynamics of leatherjackets (Tipula paludosa Meig.)

Blackshaw, R. P., Moore, J. P.
Journal of applied entomology 2012 v.136 no.8 pp. 605-613
Tipula paludosa, agricultural land, birds, climate change, crop damage, grains, grasses, grasslands, instars, larvae, pest management, pests, photoperiod, population dynamics, population size, temperature
Larvae of Tipula paludosa (leatherjackets) are pests of grassland and cereals, and important prey items for a range of farmland birds. Their population dynamics from year to year have been the subject of study, but within‐generation dynamics have received much less attention. The duration and occurrence of instars and size of the population is important to both pest management and bird conservation. Leatherjackets were collected monthly from four grass fields over five generations (October to September). Count data were analysed for sources of variability and used to estimate the timing and duration of instars and population changes over a single generation. Instar durations were correlated with temperature. From the first to third instars, sample counts were strongly influenced by the location of the site and the generation. Fourth instar larvae showed a similar decline in numbers across all sites and generations. The duration and timing of first to third instars was more variable than that of the fourth instar, but there was limited evidence that this was influenced by temperature. Only the durations of the third and fourth instars were correlated. The population decline from April to September coincided with the onset of the fourth instar. Our results show that the factors influencing leatherjacket numbers change over the life cycle, but by the fourth instar, these are biotically driven. The predictability of its numerical decline indicates defined windows for crop damage and availability as prey. The stability of its timing suggests that day length may synchronize the annual cycle. Fixed timing of the fourth instar will have important consequences for the timing of crop damage and the conservation of farmland birds as climate changes.