Science Diary: Caterpillars – Parasitoids

music; ambience

“A lot of caterpillars like new growth, it’s what they like to eat, so young leaves. It’s the new growth and the tips have been chewed away. This looks like something interesting.”

In a Costa Rican rainforest, ecologist Grant Gentry and a team of Earthwatch volunteers are searching for caterpillars and parasitoids the organisms that prey on caterpillars. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside.

“A parasitoid, it’s really kind of a specialized kind of predator. It’s an organism, almost always an insect, that will lay an egg or a larva on or inside of another host, usually another insect. And then, that parasitoid’s offspring, the maggot, will feed on that living host. So it always kills its host in one generation. That’s what a parasitoid does.”

[in the field] “That’s a little, that’s a little predator. Zippin’ around. Be careful, he might drop. And get more of that vine.”

“The scientific community doesn’t really know how important a role parasitoids play in forest dynamics here in the tropics, or really even in the states. There’s some evidence that shows that parasitoids are extremely important in keeping certain organisms populations low, or affecting where they can live or how they can live or their behavior. In some systems parasitoids provide, you know, 40% of the mortality of some specific species of, let’s say, caterpillar. If you have a healthy mix of parasitoids and predators in a banana plantation, then that can potentially translate into fewer pest caterpillars.”

We’ll hear more on caterpillars in future programs. Our latest project is a competition for third to sixth graders. Check out kidsciencechallenge.com.

Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Science Diary: Caterpillars - Parasitoids

In Costa Rica's banana plantations, parasitoids can keep hungry caterpillars in check.
Air Date:07/08/2011
Scientist:
Transcript:

music; ambience

"A lot of caterpillars like new growth, it's what they like to eat, so young leaves. It's the new growth and the tips have been chewed away. This looks like something interesting."

In a Costa Rican rainforest, ecologist Grant Gentry and a team of Earthwatch volunteers are searching for caterpillars and parasitoids the organisms that prey on caterpillars. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside.

"A parasitoid, it's really kind of a specialized kind of predator. It's an organism, almost always an insect, that will lay an egg or a larva on or inside of another host, usually another insect. And then, that parasitoid's offspring, the maggot, will feed on that living host. So it always kills its host in one generation. That's what a parasitoid does."

[in the field] "That's a little, that's a little predator. Zippin' around. Be careful, he might drop. And get more of that vine."

"The scientific community doesn't really know how important a role parasitoids play in forest dynamics here in the tropics, or really even in the states. There's some evidence that shows that parasitoids are extremely important in keeping certain organisms populations low, or affecting where they can live or how they can live or their behavior. In some systems parasitoids provide, you know, 40% of the mortality of some specific species of, let's say, caterpillar. If you have a healthy mix of parasitoids and predators in a banana plantation, then that can potentially translate into fewer pest caterpillars."

We'll hear more on caterpillars in future programs. Our latest project is a competition for third to sixth graders. Check out kidsciencechallenge.com.

Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.