Journal of Insect Behavior

, Volume 27, Issue 6, pp 693–700 | Cite as

Influence of Diet and Density on Laboratory Cannibalism Behaviors in Gypsy Moth Larvae (Lymantria dispar L.)

  • Charles J. Mason
  • Zachary Cannizzo
  • Kenneth F. Raffa


The gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) is an insect folivore that feeds on a broad range of hosts, and undergoes intermittent outbreaks that cause extensive tree mortality. Like many other herbivorous insects, gypsy moth larvae consume a substrate that is low in nitrogen. Gypsy moth larvae have been known to cannibalize under crowded conditions in the laboratory. In this study, we assessed the influence of nitrogen and density on cannibalism behavior in gypsy moth larvae. Cannibalism rates increased with decreased nitrogen and increased density. There was no interaction between these two parameters. Developmental experiments confirmed that low dietary nitrogen is detrimental, in agreement with previous studies. In a second experiment, we assessed the influence of previous cannibalism experiences on subsequent cannibalism behavior. Gypsy moth larvae that had previously cannibalized other larvae subsequently exhibited higher cannibalism rates than those larvae that had not cannibalized. In conclusion, low nitrogen, high larval density, and previous cannibalism experience are important factors contributing to gypsy moth larval cannibalism. Future studies are needed to estimate benefits to larvae, and to more closely approximate field conditions.


Gypsy moth cannibalism nitrogen density plant-insect interactions 



We thank the anonymous reviewer for a critical review that had improved this manuscript. This work was funded by a University of Wisconsin-Madison Hilldale Undergraduate Research Fellowship awarded to ZC, USDA Hatch #WIS01598 awarded to KFR, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles J. Mason
    • 1
  • Zachary Cannizzo
    • 1
  • Kenneth F. Raffa
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EntomologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

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