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Impact of climatic variation on populations of pine processionary moth

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There is growing appreciation of climatic effects on insect population dynamics at the margins of distribution limits. Climatic effects might be less important and/or involve different drivers and processes near the centre of distributions.

We evaluated the effects of interannual variation in temperatures, radiation and precipitation on populations of pine processionary moth Thaumetopoea pityocampa in Central–South Portugal, a low altitude area with a relatively mild Mediterranean climate near the centre of the north–south range of the species.

We tested for effects of climate on mortality of young larvae, growth rates, final larval mass and fecundity.

Results indicated high mortality of early instars associated with low minimum and maximum daily temperatures and low precipitation. Low minimum temperatures were further associated with high parasitism by the larval parasitoid Phryxe caudata (Rondani) (Diptera, Tachinidae). Furthermore, larval growth rates were higher with high solar radiation during December and January, which was itself negatively related to precipitation and air temperature. Slow larval growth rates led to lower final mass at pupation in the spring, and smaller egg masses and smaller initial colony sizes during the next autumn.

Thus climatic factors, and temperature in particular, apparently contributed to population dynamics of T. pityocampa in the core of its distribution, as well as at its northern limits. The most specific climatic parameters of importance, however, and the connections between climate, physiology and insect demographics in the core area were clearly different from northern areas.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-08-01

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