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Volume 2015 (2015), Article ID 359765, 6 pages
Research Article

Temporal and Spatial Foraging Behavior of the Larvae of the Fall Webworm Hyphantria cunea

Department of Biological Sciences, State University College at Cortland, Cortland, NY 13045, USA

Received 14 July 2015; Accepted 24 November 2015

Academic Editor: Jacques Hubert Charles Delabie

Copyright © 2015 Terrence D. Fitzgerald. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


During their first three larval stadia, caterpillars of Hyphantria cunea (Lepidoptera: Arctiidae) are patch-restricted foragers, confining their activity to a web-nest they construct in the branches of the host tree. Activity recordings of eight field colonies made over 46 colony-days showed that the later instars become central place foragers, leaving their nests at dusk to feed at distant sites and then returning to their nests in the morning. Colonies maintained in the laboratory showed that same pattern of foraging. In Y-choice laboratory experiments, caterpillars were slow to abandon old, exhausted feeding sites in favor of new food finds. An average of approximately 40% of the caterpillars in five colonies still selected pathways leading to exhausted sites at the onset of foraging bouts over those leading to new sites after feeding exclusively at the new sites on each of the previous four days. On returning to their nests in the morning, approximately 23% of the caterpillars erred by selecting pathways that led them away from the nest rather than toward it and showed no improvement over the course of the study. The results of these Y-choice studies indicate that, compared to other previously studied species of social caterpillars, the webworm employs a relatively simple system of collective foraging.