• Chewing mouthparts;
  • insect herbivore;
  • mandibles;
  • Saccharum spp;
  • silica


1 Silicon can increase the resistance of plants to attack by herbivorous insects. The present study aimed to determine the effect of silicon and cultivar on mandibular wear in larvae of the sugarcane stalk borer Eldana saccharina Walker (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae).

2 Four sugarcane cultivars, resistant (N21, N33) and susceptible (N11, N26) to E. saccharina were grown in a pot trial in silicon deficient river sand, with (Si+) and without (Si−) calcium silicate. Individual third-instar larvae were confined on the sugarcane stalk at three known feeding sites (leaf bud, root band and internode) and left to feed for 21 days.

3 Eldana saccharina larval heads were mounted on stubs, with the mandibles oriented horizontally and photographed under a scanning electron microscope. Mandibular wear was measured from the digital images using a quantitative method.

4 Although there was a trend for increased wear in larvae that developed on Si+ cane, no significant effect of silicon, cultivar or site on mandibular wear of E. saccharina was shown.

5 This is the first study to accurately and quantitatively measure the mandibular wear of an insect fed on Si+ plants.