Spatial patterns at host and forest stand scale and population regulation of the pine processionary moth Thaumetopoea pityocampa

Carla S. Pimentel, Claudia Ferreira, Marcia Santos, Teresa Calvão

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Different spatial processes are likely to generate variability at different scales. Thus, the explanation of patterns may be facilitated by knowledge about the spatial scales where variation in patterns occurs. In the present study, the link between spatial patterns of the pine processionary moth Thaumetopoea pityocampa Den. & Schiff. (Lepidoptera, Notodontidae) at two different scales, as well as its population dynamics, was assessed. First, the spatial patterns of T. pityocampa population were assessed at the forest stand scale by surveying the distribution of larval colonies within the pine forest, indicative of adult dispersion. Second, egg-laying patterns across individual host-plants, indicative of female oviposition choices, were assessed, as well as their impact on the survival of immature stages. It was found that T. pityocampa presents a gregarious distribution in homogeneous pine forests, over distances of a few dozen metres. At the pine tree scale, females tend to aggregate their egg batches, whereas aggregation increases with population density. Natural enemies such as parasitoids do not appear to play an important role in regulating the population dynamics of the species. At the same time, aggregation in individual hosts leads to increased mortality in the period from hatching to the third instar, which is notable at high population densities. A patchy distribution in the landscape over short distances has a potentially positive effect on population dynamics of the species, avoiding the Allee effect, and allowing for a rapid increase in population, even where initial numbers are low, leading to localized outbreaks. At the same time, increased mortality as a result of egg-batch clumping at high population densities is a potential density-dependent mechanism of population regulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)200-209
Number of pages10
JournalAgricultural And Forest Entomology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


  • Forest defoliator
  • gregarious distribution
  • oviposition behaviour
  • pine forests
  • Pinus pinaster


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