Choice of Food and Numerical Abundance Among Insects

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Insects are not alone in almost unlimited capabilities for rapid multiplication, the limiting causes being prevalence of disease, parasites and available food supply. The remarkable instincts associated with the choice of food plants have been largely neglected by investigators. Certain insects like the migratory locusts are highly polyphagous, while others are limited to a single food plant, probably through a long evolutionary process. Agricultural pests may be either polyphagous, oligophagous or monophagous and under primitive conditions the former were represented by larger populations than those with more restricted diets. Only very exceptionally do natural associations of plants offer ideal conditions for monophagous insects, as in western coniferous forests and certain types of grasslands some oligophagous species are apparently composed of several phytophagic races propagating more or less independently. Species exhibiting remarkable capacity for shifting from one food plant to another, such as the cotton boll worm may become extremely abundant where its food plants are associated, though natural checks soon establish an approximate balance as a rule. Trees and plants with a long life cycle occupy a relatively insecure position with regard to insect damage.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 1923

More about this publication?
  • Journal of Economic Entomology is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December. The journal publishes articles on the economic significance of insects and is divided into the following sections: apiculture & social insects; arthropods in relation to plant disease; forum; insecticide resistance and resistance management; ecotoxicology; biological and microbial control; ecology and behavior; sampling and biostatistics; household and structural insects; medical entomology; molecular entomology; veterinary entomology; forest entomology; horticultural entomology; field and forage crops, and small grains; stored-product; commodity treatment and quarantine entomology; and plant resistance. In addition to research papers, Journal of Economic Entomology publishes Letters to the Editor, interpretive articles in a Forum section, Short Communications, Rapid Communications, and Book Reviews.
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