Aerial dispersal and host plant selection by neonate Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis (Lepidoptera: Psychidae)

Robert G. Moore, Lawrence M. Hanks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


1. Neonate evergreen bagworms, Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis (Haworth) (Lepidoptera: Psychidae), disperse by dropping on a strand of silk, termed silking, and ballooning on the wind. Larvae construct silken bags with fragments of plant foliage. This species is highly polyphagous, feeding on more than 125 species of woody plants of 45 families. The larvae commonly infests juniper (Juniperus spp.) and arborvitae (Thuja spp.), but rarely feed on deciduous hosts such as maples. The hypothesis is proposed that polyphagy in T. ephemeraeformis is maintained by variation among larvae in dispersal behaviour, and time constraints on the opportunity to disperse, but patterns of host species preference result from a predisposition for larvae to settle on arborvitae and juniper but disperse from other hosts. 2. Consistent with that hypothesis, laboratory experiments revealed: (a) starved larvae varied in their tendency to disperse from paper leaf models; (b) starved larvae readily silked only during their first day; (c) larvae became increasingly sedentary the longer they were exposed to plant foliage; (d) when provided with several opportunities to silk, larvae became sedentary after exposure to arborvitae foliage, but repeatedly silked after exposure to maple (Acer species) foliage or paper; and (e) larvae were less inclined to silk from foliage of arborvitae than from maple. 3. Field experiments supported the hypothesis by demonstrating that: (a) neonates tended to disperse from maple leaves while larvae older than 1 day tended to settle and remain; and (b) neonates were less likely to disperse from arborvitae and juniper trees than from maples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-335
Number of pages9
JournalEcological Entomology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2004


  • Bagworm
  • Ballooning
  • Caterpillar
  • Host plant location
  • Plant-insect interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Insect Science


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