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Enemies in low places – insects avoid winter mortality and egg parasitism by modulating oviposition height

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 March 2007

E. Obermaier*
University of Würzburg, Field Station Fabrikschleichach, Glashüttenstr. 5, 96181 Rauhenebrach, Germany
A. Heisswolf
University of Würzburg, Field Station Fabrikschleichach, Glashüttenstr. 5, 96181 Rauhenebrach, Germany
B. Randlkofer
University of Würzburg, Field Station Fabrikschleichach, Glashüttenstr. 5, 96181 Rauhenebrach, Germany Department of Applied Zoology/Animal Ecology, Free University of Berlin, Germany
T. Meiners
Department of Applied Zoology/Animal Ecology, Free University of Berlin, Germany
*Fax: ++49 9554 367 E-mail:


Oviposition site selection in insects is essential in terms of low egg mortality, high offspring survival and therefore a high reproductive output. Although oviposition height could be a crucial factor for the fitness of overwintering eggs, it has rarely been investigated. In this study the oviposition height of a polyphagous leaf beetle, Galeruca tanaceti Linnaeus in different habitats and at different times of the season was examined and its effect on egg clutch mortality was recorded. The leaf beetle occurs as an occasional pest on several agricultural plants. It deposits its eggs within herbaceous vegetation in autumn. Eggs are exposed to numerous biotic and abiotic mortality factors summarized as egg parasitism and winter mortality. Oviposition height of the leaf beetle was not uniform, but changed significantly with the structure of the habitat and during the season. Mean oviposition height per site (70.2±4.9 cm) was significantly higher than mean vegetation height (28.4±2.4 cm). Height of plants with egg clutches attached and oviposition height were significantly positively correlated. The results suggest that females try to oviposit as high as possible in the vegetation and on the plants selected. In accordance with this, the probability of egg parasitism and of winter egg clutch mortality significantly declined with increasing oviposition height. A preference of G. tanaceti for oviposition sites high up in the vegetation might therefore have evolved due to selection pressures by parasitoids and winter mortality.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2006

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