Migratory flight of insect pests within a year-round distribution: European corn borer as a case study

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Sappington, Thomas
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The Department of Entomology seeks to teach the study of insects, their life-cycles, and the practicalities in dealing with them, for use in the fields of business, industry, education, and public health. The study of entomology can be applied towards evolution and ecological sciences, and insects’ relationships with other organisms & humans, or towards an agricultural or horticultural focus, focusing more on pest-control and management.

The Department of Entomology was founded in 1975 as a result of the division of the Department of Zoology and Entomology.

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Insect migratory flight differs fundamentally from most other kinds of flight behavior, in that it is non-appetitive. The adult is not searching for anything, and migratory flight is not terminated by encounters with potential resources. Many insect pests of agricultural crops are long-distance migrants, moving from lower latitudes where they overwinter to higher latitudes in the spring to exploit superabundant, but seasonally ephemeral, host crops. The migratory nature of these pests is somewhat easy to recognize because of their sudden appearance in areas where they had been absent only a day or two earlier. Many other serious pests survive hostile winter conditions by diapausing, and therefore do not require migration to move between overwintering and breeding ranges. Yet there is evidence of migratory behavior engaged in by several pest species that inhabit high latitudes year-round. In these cases, the consequences of migratory flight are not immediately noticeable at the population level, because migration takes place for the most part within their larger year-round distribution. Nevertheless, the potential population-level consequences can be quite important in the contexts of pest management and insect resistance management. As a case study, I review the evidence for migratory flight behavior by individual European corn borer adults, and discuss the importance of understanding it. The kind of migratory behavior posited for pest species inhabiting a permanent distribution may be more common than we realize.


This article is published as Sappington, Thomas W. "Migratory flight of insect pests within a year-round distribution: European corn borer as a case study." Journal of Integrative Agriculture 17, no. 7 (2018): 1485-1505. doi: 10.1016/S2095-3119(18)61969-0.