Due to its effect on the time available for host selection and learning, butterfly age is expected to alter the degree of host specificity and potentially niche breadth. Here, we use the small cabbage white, Pieris rapae L., to test the effect of age on ovipositional specificity and decision-making time. Specifically, we examined the ovipositional behavior of P. rapae 4, 8, and 12 days post-emergence. Females were recorded in thirty-minute trials using leaves of two hosts, mustard leaves, Brassica juncea, and collard greens, Brassica oleracea Acephala group, and the non-host common bean, Phaseolus vulgaris. Subsequently, we measured the duration of drumming events (a proxy for decision-making time) and whether the leaves were accepted or rejected as ovipositional substrates. As would be expected if prior experience influenced ovipositional behavior, we saw a reduction in the duration of drumming events as females aged. In particular, we saw a reduction in duration of drumming events when rejecting the non-host between days 4 and days 8 and 12. We also detected a decrease in drumming time between days 4 and 8 when accepting hosts, but an increase in drumming time between days 8 and 12 when accepting hosts. These results suggest both an increased ability to recognize hosts and an increase in selectivity with age.
Breitkreutz, Brett; Wagner, Tracy LE; and Mercader, Rodrigo J.
"Influence of Age on Decision Making by Ovipositing Pieris rapae (Lepidoptera: Pieridae).,"
The Great Lakes Entomologist, vol 54
Available at: https://scholar.valpo.edu/tgle/vol54/iss1/4