Topical application of a plant extract to different life stages of Trichoplusia ni fails to influence feeding or oviposition behaviour

Yasmin Akhtar, Ikkei Shikano, Murray B. Isman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


We have previously determined that larval feeding experience with a feeding/oviposition deterrent modified the feeding responses of larvae and oviposition responses of subsequent moths. These behavioural changes were attributed to learning, but the possibility of chemical legacy could not be ruled out. In the present study, we have topically applied a feeding/oviposition deterrent plant extract from Hoodia gordonii (Masson) Sweet ex Decne (Asclepiadaceae) to larvae, pupae, and adults of Trichoplusia ni (Hübner) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) to determine whether the feeding response of larvae and oviposition response of subsequent female moths is similarly modified by chemicals applied to the external surface of the insect. Our results indicate that traces of the extract that may be present internally or externally on the larvae do not reduce the feeding deterrent response of larvae. Furthermore, traces of the extract in or on larvae, pupae, or adult moths did not alter oviposition choice of female moths, leading us to discount the role of experience through topical application in this study. The fact that feeding/oviposition choice was only influenced by prior feeding experience of the larvae and not by topical administration suggests that habituation via sensory stimulation through mouthpart chemosensilla is likely a central phenomenon. Continuous exposure of adult moths to the extract over a period of 7 days did not affect the oviposition response of the female moths, ruling out the role of adult experience on host-plant selection in T. ni. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the role of experience via topical application of chemicals onto all life stages of the insect except the egg. Chemical legacy may not be playing a role in influencing the oviposition choices of female T. ni moths.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-282
Number of pages8
JournalEntomologia Experimentalis et Applicata
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science


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