Project title: How does the fear of predation affect the growth and development of luna moth (Actias luna) larvae?
Mentor: Evan Preisser
Abstract: Predators reduce prey populations by feeding upon them, and they alter the behavior of prey species by their mere presence. There have been studies on how the nonlethal presence of predatory or parasitic insects affects the development and behavior of herbivorous ones. We observed the effects that nonlethal predatory wasps had on the development of Actias luna larvae. We rendered wasps (Vespula maculifrons) harmless by applying plastic to their mandibles and stingers before placing them in bins with wasp treatment group larvae. Another group of larvae received similarly treated harmless flies to factor for the presence of a flying insect. The control group simply received the plastic material, and all larvae were reared to pupation or death. Larvae exposed to wasps suffered much higher mortality rates and were unable to speed development up in order to avoid the threat.