Causes and consequences of cannibalism in noncarnivorous insects

Matthew L. Richardson, Robert F. Mitchell, Peter F. Reagel, Lawrence M. Hanks

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


We review the primary literature to document the incidence of cannibalism among insects that typically are not carnivorous. Most of the cannibalistic species were coleopterans and lepidopterans, and the cannibals often were juveniles that aggregate or that overlap in phenology with the egg stage. Cannibalism can be adaptive by improving growth rate, survivorship, vigor, longevity, and fecundity. It also can play an important role in regulating population density and suppressing population outbreaks, stabilizing host plantâ€"insect relationships, and reducing parasitism rates. Cannibalism often was favored by density-dependent factors for herbivores that feed in concealed feeding situations (such as stem borers, leafminers), but also by density-independent factors (such as high ambient temperature) for herbivores that feed in exposed feeding situations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-53
Number of pages15
JournalAnnual Review of Entomology
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010


  • Competition
  • Feeding guild
  • Insecta
  • Intraguild predation
  • Population density

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science

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