Interspecific variation in competitor avoidance and foraging success in sap-attracted insects

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Many insect species attracted to fermenting sap often fight for access to this resource, which results in the establishment of interspecific dominance hierarchies. In one such system, the hornet Vespa mandarinia (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) behaviourally dominates during the daytime and several subordinate species avoid aggressive interactions in various ways. In order to elucidate the interspecific variation in competitor-avoidance behaviour and its subsequent effect on foraging success, the behaviour of species of hornets, beetles and butterflies at patches (exudation spots) in Japan was recorded. The percentage of individuals that succeeded in visiting a patch following departure from one, or an attempted visit, or after waiting near a patch for ≥ 10 s, did not differ greatly among species, despite the distinctive differences in dominance between V. mandarinia and the other species. These results suggest that subordinate species may be equally effective at foraging for sap as the dominant species. The competitor-avoidance behaviour differed among the species. Vespa crabro and satyrine butterflies mainly avoided competition by actively moving away from competitors. The beetle Rhomborrhina japonica (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) often remained close to an occupied patch and waited for the occupant to leave, whereas V. ducalis and nymphaline butterflies used both tactics. The different costs associated with fighting or flight may have determined the differences in the foraging tactics of the species studied and behavioural switching in those species utilising both tactics.




Yoshimoto, J. (2009). Interspecific variation in competitor avoidance and foraging success in sap-attracted insects. European Journal of Entomology, 106(4), 529–533.

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