Egg clumping, host plant selection and population regulation in Cactoblastis cactorum (Lepidoptera) Academic Article uri icon


  • Since the successful control of prickly pear cactus by Cactoblastis cactorum in Australia, populations of plants and moths have persisted at low densities in open woodland sites. A contagious egg distribution causes overcrowding of larvae on some plants but insures low levels or no attack of other plants. This prevents extinction of plants and insects. Cactoblastis moths choose plants with characteristics which may increase the success of their larvae. Field observations and cage experiments indicate that large, green cactuses near previously attacked cactuses receive more eggs. Plants which are actively photosynthesizing are also more attractive as oviposition sites. These oviposition preferences contribute to the observed contagious egg distribution.While open woodland Opuntia and Cactoblastis populations fluctuate around an equilibrium, pasture populations may better be described by the "hide and seek" model, with the woodland populations serving as refuges. Average plant quality and variation in quality are suggested as important components in the dynamics of this system.

publication date

  • October 1981

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