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Macronutrient intake affects reproduction of a predatory insect


K. L. Barry, Dept of Biological Sciences, Macquarie Univ., NSW, Australia. E-mail:


Prey quality has previously been shown to affect the growth and reproduction of predatory arthropods, however relatively little is known about the specific nutrients responsible for these effects. We tested if the macronutrient content (i.e. lipid and protein) of live prey affected mate attraction, reproductive behavior, egg production and nutrient reserves of adult female praying mantids, Pseudomantis albofimbriata. Females on a high-protein diet produced more than twice as many eggs as females on a high-lipid diet despite being fed the same overall biomass of prey. Furthermore, the lipid and protein composition of eggs and the female body was directly related to the diet that females were fed (i.e. high lipid content on the high-lipid diet). Even more striking was the effect of diet treatment on the number of males attracted to females – only one male was attracted to females on the high-lipid treatment and 56 males were attracted to females on the high-protein treatment. Although it is not unexpected that females with more eggs would attract more males, the extreme nature of this difference is certainly surprising because previous studies have shown that females with only a couple of eggs can attract multiple males. Hence, our results suggest that female pheromone production may be affected by the quality/nutritional composition of eggs rather than simply the number of eggs. We found no significant difference in any of the other behaviours measured during mating trials, including the frequency of sexual cannibalism. The positive effects of prey protein content on mate attraction and egg production suggest that praying mantids might be expected to choose more protein-biased prey in nature or, if prey choice is limited, to have higher reproductive output or population growth in communities dominated by protein-rich prey.