Soldier bug predation on swallowtail caterpillars (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae): Circumvention of defensive chemistry

May R Berenbaum, B. Moreno, E. Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


All larvae in the family Papilionidae possess osmeteria, eversible glands that release defensive chemicals upon disturbance. These chemicals have been shown to be repellent to ants, mantids, and other predaceous arthropods with chewing mouthparts. In this study, we demonstrate that the pentatomid Podisus maculiventris, an important predator of the black swallowtail Papilio polyxenes, is capable of piercing the body wall of the caterpillar and consuming body fluids without eliciting osmeterial eversion. Tenebrio molitor larvae coated with osmeterial secretions of Papilio polyxenes were universally rejected by Podisus maculiventris, suggesting that the predator is in fact repelled by the swallowtail defensive chemistry. By circumventing the defensive behavior of the caterpillar, the pentatomid is able to utilize an otherwise chemically unsuitable prey species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)547-553
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Insect Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 1992


  • black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)
  • chemical defense
  • osmeterium
  • predation
  • spined soldier bug (Podisus maculiventris)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science


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