Mosquito Feeding Affects Larval Behaviour and Development in a Moth
Organisms are attacked by different natural enemies present in their habitat. While enemies such as parasitoids and predators will kill their hosts/preys when they successfully attack them, enemies such as micropredators will not entirely consume their prey. However, they can still have important consequences on the performance and ecology of the prey, such as reduced growth, increased emigration, disease transmission.
In this paper, we investigated the impact of a terrestrial micropredator, the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti, on its unusual invertebrate host, the Egyptian cotton leaf worm, Spodoptera littoralis. Larvae developing in presence of mosquitoes showed a slower development and reached a smaller pupal weight when compared to a control without mosquitoes, apparently because of a reduced feeding time for larvae. In addition, larvae tended to leave the plant in presence of mosquitoes.
These results suggest that mosquitoes act as micropredators and affects lepidopteran larvae behaviour and development. Ecological impacts such as higher risks of food depletion and longer exposure to natural enemies are likely to be costly consequences. The importance of this phenomenon in nature – the possible function as last resort when vertebrates are unavailable – and the evolutionary aspects are discussed.