Oviposition decisions in the seed beetle, Callosobruchus maculatus (Coleoptera: Bruchidae): Effects of seed size on superparasitism

Jason M. Cope, Charles W. Fox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


The seed parasite Callosobruchus maculatus generally disperses eggs uniformly among seeds. We used cowpeas (Vigna unguiculata) of two class sizes (large and small) to test predictions based on a simple resource threshold model that females will distribute eggs among seeds in a manner that maximizes the amount of resources allocated to each offspring. When females were presented with multiple seeds of the same size, they tended to distribute their eggs relatively uniformly among seeds (I≤0.27 where I is the variance/mean ratio, and I = 1 reflects a random Poisson distribution). However, when seeds varied in size females distributed their eggs in a manner that maximized the amount of resources per offspring; females distributed eggs as predicted by seed differences in mass rather than as predicted by seed differences in surface area. Therefore, females must evaluate the relative quantity of resources available inside of a seed more accurately than if they compared the ratio of surface areas between seeds of varying size. Instead, females must either use cues other than surface area when estimating seed mass, or must have the ability to extrapolate non-linearly from surface area to seed mass. Females with higher egg loads (4-d-old females) laid more eggs when presented with seeds, but did not distribute their eggs less uniformly, than females with lower egg loads (1-d-old females), indicating that high egg load does not reduce female sensitivity to seed size and the presence of conspecific eggs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355-365
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Stored Products Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 12 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank M.E. Czesak, U. Savalli, P. Spinelli, N.D.G. White and two anonymous reviewers for comments on these experiments and this paper. F. Messina helped with the design of some of the experiments. D. Parkhurst helped with various mathematical issues, especially when we considered alternative methods for estimating seed surface area. This research was funded in part by funds from the Louis Calder Center Summer Undergraduate Research Program (to J. Cope) and by NSF grant DEB-98-07315 (to C. Fox).


  • Egg dispersion
  • Egg load
  • Seed size
  • Superparasitism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Insect Science
  • Horticulture


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