Skip to main content Accessibility help

Predator release from invertebrate generalists does not explain geometrid moth (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) outbreaks at high altitudes

  • Tino Schott (a1), Lauri Kapari (a1), Snorre B. Hagen (a2), Ole Petter L. Vindstad (a1), Jane U. Jepsen (a3) and Rolf A. Ims (a1)...


Outbreaks of geometrid defoliators in subarctic birch forest in Fennoscandia often occur at high altitude in a distinct zone along the tree line. At the same time, moth larvae may not have an impact on the forest at lower altitude. Directly adjacent outbreak and nonoutbreak areas offer unique opportunities for studying the underlying mechanisms of outbreaks. Within two altitudinal gradients in coastal northern Norway, we investigated whether altitudinal outbreaks might be caused by release from pupal predation by ground-dwelling invertebrates such as harvestmen (Opiliones), spiders (Araneae), rove beetles (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae), carabid beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae), and other beetles (Coleoptera). We predicted a consistently higher abundance of such generalist predators at low versus high altitudes. Our results did not support this prediction. There was no consistent altitudinal variation in the abundance of predators that could be related to zonal moth outbreaks in the birch forest slopes. In addition, none of the predator groups investigated showed any numerical response to a distinct outbreak of winter moth that took place during the course of the study. Consequently, localised moth outbreaks at the altitudinal tree line in northern Norway cannot be explained by the release from pupal predation by the predator groups examined here.


Corresponding author

1Correspondence author (e-mail:


Hide All
Ashby, J.W. 1974. Study of arthropod predation of Pieris rapae (L.) using serological and exclusion techniques. Journal of Applied Ecology, 11: 419425.
Baltensweiler, W. 1993. Why the larch bud moth cycle collapsed in the subalpine larch-cembran pine forests in the year 1990 for the 1st time since 1850. Oecologia, 94: 6266.
Baltensweiler, W. 2008. Tracing the influence of larch bud moth insect outbreaks and weather conditions on larch tree-ring growth in Engadine (Switzerland). Oikos, 117: 161172.
Bjørnstad, O.N., Ims, R.A., Lambin, X. 1999. Spatial population dynamics: analysing patterns and processes of population synchrony. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 14: 427432.
Frank, J.H. 1967. Insect predators of pupal stage of winter moth Operophtera brumata (L.) (Lepidoptera – Hydriomenidea). Journal of Animal Ecology, 36: 375389.
Hagen, S.B., Ims, R.A., Yoccoz, N.G. 2003. Density-dependent melanism in sub-arctic populations of winter moth larvae (Operophtera brumata). Ecological Entomology, 28: 659665.
Hagen, S.B., Jepsen, J.U., Ims, R.A., Yoccoz, N.G. 2007. Shifting altitudinal distribution of outbreak zones of winter moth Operophtera brumata in sub-arctic birch forest: a response to recent climate warming? Ecography, 30: 299307.
Hågvar, S. 1976. Altitudinal zonation of the invertebrate fauna on branches of birch Betula pubescens. Norwegian Journal of Entomology, 23: 6174.
Hansen, N.M., Ims, R.A., Hagen, S.B. 2009. No impact of pupal predation on the altitudinal distribution of autumnal moth and winter moth (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) in sub-Arctic birch forest. Environmental Entomology, 38: 627632.
Hansson, L.Henttonen, H. 1988. Rodent dynamics as community processes. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 3: 195200.
Hengxiao, G., McMillin, J.D., Wagner, M.R., Zhou, J., Xu, X. 1999. Altitudinal variation in foliar chemistry and anatomy of yunnan pine, Pinus yunnanensis, and pine sawfly (Hym., Diprionidae) performance. Journal of Applied Entomology, 123: 465471.
Horgan, F.G. 2005. Predatory hypogaeic beetles are attracted to buried winter moth (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) pupae: evidence using a new trap design. The Coleopterists Bulletin, 59: 4146.
Hunter, M.D., Watt, A.D., Docherty, M. 1991. Outbreaks of the winter moth on Sitka spruce in Scotland are not influenced by nutrient deficiencies of trees, tree budburst, or pupal predation. Oecologica, 86: 6269.
Ims, R.A., Yoccoz, N.G., Hagen, S.B. 2004. Do sub-Arctic winter moth populations in coastal birch forest exhibit spatially synchronous dynamics? Journal of Animal Ecology, 73: 11291136.
Jepsen, J.U., Hagen, S.B., Karlsen, S.R., Ims, R.A. 2009. Phase-dependent outbreak dynamics of geometrid moth linked to host plant phenology. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 276: 41194128.
Jepsen, J.U., Kapari, L., Hagen, S.B., Schott, T., Vindstad, O.P.L., Nilssen, A.C., et al. 2011. Rapid northwards expansion of a forest insect pest attributed to spring phenology matching with sub-Arctic birch. Global Change Biology, 17: 20712083.
Johnson, D.M., Buentgen, U., Frank, D.C., Kausrud, K., Haynes, K.J., Liebhold, A.M., et al. 2010. Climatic warming disrupts recurrent Alpine insect outbreaks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 107: 2057620581.
Kamata, N. 2002. Outbreaks of forest defoliating insects in Japan, 1950–2000. Bulletin of Entomological Research, 92: 109117.
Kayes, L.J.Tinker, D.B. 2012. Forest structure and regeneration following a mountain pine beetle epidemic in southeastern Wyoming. Forest Ecology and Management, 263: 5766.
Kharuk, V.I., Ranson, K.J., Fedotova, E.V. 2007. Spatial pattern of Siberian silkmoth outbreak and taiga mortality. Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research, 22: 531536.
Klemola, T., Tanhuanpää, M., Korpimäki, E., Ruohomäki, K. 2002. Specialist and generalist natural enemies as an explanation for geographical gradients in population cycles of northern herbivores. Oikos, 99: 8394.
Maron, J.L., Harrison, S., Greaves, M. 2001. Origin of an insect outbreak: escape in space or time from natural enemies? Oecologica, 126: 595602.
Mjaaseth, R.R., Hagen, S.B., Yoccoz, N.G., Ims, R.A. 2005. Phenology and abundance in relation to climatic variation in a sub-arctic insect herbivore-mountain birch system. Oecologia, 145: 5365.
Nyffeler, M. 1999. Prey selection of spiders in the field. Journal of Arachnology, 27: 317324.
R Development Core Team 2010. R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria.
Raymond, B., Vanbergen, A., Watt, A., Hartley, S.E., Cory, J.S., Hails, R.S. 2002. Escape from pupal predation as a potential cause of outbreaks of the winter moth, Operophtera brumata. Oikos, 98: 219228.
Ruohomäki, K., Virtanen, T., Kaitaniemi, P., Tammaru, T. 1997. Old mountain birches at high altitudes are prone to outbreaks of Epirrita autumnata (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Environmental Entomology, 26: 10961104.
Schott, T., Hagen, S.B., Ims, R.A., Yoccoz, N.G. 2010. Are population outbreaks in sub-arctic geometrids terminated by larval parasitoids? Journal of Animal Ecology, 79: 701708.
Tanhuanpää, M., Ruohomäki, K., Kaitaniemi, P., Klemola, T. 1999. Different impact of pupal predation on populations of Epirrita autumnata (Lepidoptera; Geometridae) within and outside the outbreak range. Journal of Animal Ecology, 68: 562570.
Tenow, O. 1972. The outbreaks of Oporinia autumnata Bkh. and Operophtera spp. (Lep., Geometridae) in the Scandinavian mountain chain and northern Finland 1862–1968. Zoologiska Bidrag från Uppsala, 2 (Suppl. 2), 1107.
Tenow, O.Nilssen, A. 1990. Egg cold hardiness and topoclimatic limitations to outbreaks of Epirrita autumnata in northern Fennoscandia. Journal of Applied Ecology, 27: 723734.
Turchin, P.Hanski, I. 1997. An empirically based model for latitudinal gradient in vole population dynamics. American Naturalist, 149: 842874.
Virtanen, T.Neuvonen, S. 1999. Performance of moth larvae on birch in relation to altitude, climate, host quality and parasitoids. Oecologia, 120: 92101.
Virtanen, T., Neuvonen, S., Nikula, A. 1998. Modelling topoclimatic patterns of egg mortality of Epirrita autumnata (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) with a geographical information system: predictions for current climate and warmer climate scenarios. Journal of Applied Ecology, 35: 311322.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Predator release from invertebrate generalists does not explain geometrid moth (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) outbreaks at high altitudes

  • Tino Schott (a1), Lauri Kapari (a1), Snorre B. Hagen (a2), Ole Petter L. Vindstad (a1), Jane U. Jepsen (a3) and Rolf A. Ims (a1)...


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.