Updates from the Armyworm Network

New Publication: African armyworm change their feeding behaviour in response to infection by SpexNPV baculovirus

“Journal of Animal Ecology” has published online a new paper that explores the remarkable response of African armyworms to becoming infected with the SpexNPV baculovirus.

Larvae restricted to diets relatively high in protein (P) and low in carbohydrate (C) were more likely to survive a virus challenge than those restricted to diets with a low P:C ratio, and when allowed free choice of diets, virus-challenged larvae chose a diet that contained relatively more protein than that chosen by non-infected insects. This was mostly due to a sharp decline in carbohydrate intake, rather than an increased intake of protein, reducing overall food intake, consistent with an illness-induced anorexic response. Over time, the P:C ratio of the diet decreased until it
matched that of control larvae. This study provides the clearest evidence yet for dietary ‘self-medication’ using macronutrients and shows that the temporal dynamics of feeding behaviour depends on the severity and stage of the infection.

The lead author of this article is Sonia Povey, co-written by armyworm biocontrol scientist Ken Wilson, together with colleagues Sheena Cotter and Steve Simpson.

Povey, S., Cotter, S.C., Simpson, S.J. & Wilson, K. (2014) Dynamics of macronutrient self-medication and illness-induced anorexia in virally-infected insects. Journal of Animal Ecology 83: 245-255. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.12127

To download the article for free, click on the link Journal of Animal Ecology

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