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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2015

The structure of feeding behavior in a phytophagous insect (Hylobius abietis)

Fedderwitz, Frauke; Björklund, Niklas; Ninkovic, Velemir; Nordlander, Göran;


Analysis of the feeding behavior of animals using such a high temporal resolution that meals can be defined may improve our understanding of the mechanisms regulating feeding. Meals can be distinguished in an ethologically meaningful manner by using the ‘meal criterion’, the shortest non-feeding interval between feeding bouts recognized as meals. However, such a criterion has only been determined for a few insect species. Applying a recent method developed for assessing meal criteria for vertebrates, we determined the meal criterion for Hylobius abietis (L.) (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) based on data from video recordings of single individuals feeding on seedlings of Norway spruce, Picea abies (L.) Karst. (Pinaceae). The pine weevil is an economically important pest insect because it feeds on the stem bark of planted conifer seedlings. Weevils had 4-5 meals per day. Each meal lasted about 24 min during which about 13 mm2 of bark per meal were removed. Females had longer total meal durations and longer non-feeding intervals within meals than males. Girdling seedlings did not affect the weevils’ feeding properties. The size of meals was significantly correlated to the duration of non-feeding intervals before and after them. This study is one of few describing the feeding behavior of an insect at a temporal resolution that allows individual meals to be distinguished. With more meal-related data from insects available, differences in meal properties may be interpreted based on phylogeny, ecology, and physiology. Our results may also assist in the setup and interpretation of studies of plant-insect interactions, and facilitate the evaluation and development of methods to protect plants against herbivores.


feeding intervals; food intake; herbivore; prandial correlation; short-term feeding; Coleoptera; Curculionidae; Picea abies; Pinaceae

Published in

Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata

2015, volume: 155, number: 3, pages: 229-239
Publisher: The Netherlands Entomological Society; John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Authors' information

Fedderwitz, Frauke
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Crop Production Ecology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology

UKÄ Subject classification

Behavioral Sciences Biology
Forest Science

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