Eur. J. Entomol. 114: 343-349, 2017 | DOI: 10.14411/eje.2017.043

White plant shoots, wax-producing insects and other white structures made by arthropods: A mimicry complex?

Kazuo YAMAZAKI
Osaka Institute of Public Health, 8-34 Tojo-cho, Tennoji, Osaka 543-0026, Japan; e-mail: kazuo-yamazaki@iph.osaka. jp

Many insects masquerade as parts of plants, such as bark or leaves, or mimic poisonous organisms in order to defend themselves against predators. However, recent studies indicate that plants may mimic insects and other arthropods to deter herbivores. Here, I report visually similar white structures of plants and arthropods in Japan and suggest they are part of a mimicry complex. Young shoots covered with white trichomes or waxy substances may mimic wax-producing insects, such as woolly aphids, coccids and caterpillars, potentially resulting in reduced herbivory. Since wax-producing insects would reduce plant quality and quantity, be distasteful and attract natural enemies, herbivorous insects and mammals may avoid such white shoots. Furthermore, fungus-infected insects, gregarious braconid cocoons, spider egg sacs and froth made by froghopper nymphs or blasticotomid sawfly larvae are also conspicuously white and impose risks for herbivorous insects. Thus, these white structures may be mimicry models for white shoots and are likely to be part of a defensive mimicry complex. Although this study focuses on defence against herbivores, there are simultaneous physiological roles for white colouration that will not be discussed in depth here.

Keywords: Plant mimicry, anti-herbivore defence, cocoon, entomopathogenic fungus, spider egg sac, spittlebug froth, trichome, wax

Received: March 3, 2017; Accepted: June 29, 2017; Revised: June 29, 2017; Published online: July 26, 2017Show citation

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YAMAZAKI, K. (2017). White plant shoots, wax-producing insects and other white structures made by arthropods: A mimicry complex? Eur. J. Entomol.114(1), 2017.000. doi: 10.14411/eje.2017.043.
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