Drop when the stakes are high: adaptive, flexible use of dropping behaviour by aphids

Rosalind K. Humphreys, Graeme D. Ruxton, Alison J. Karley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


For herbivorous insects, dropping from the host plant is a commonly-observed antipredator defence. The use of dropping compared to other behaviours and its timing in relation to contact with a predator was explored in both pea aphids (Acyrthosiphon pisum) and potato aphids (Macrosiphum euphorbiae). Pea aphids dropped more frequently in response to ladybird adults (Adalia bipunctata) than lacewing larvae (Chrysoperla carnea). Potato aphids mainly walked away or backed-up in response to both predator types; but they dropped more frequently relative to other non-walking defences when faced with ladybird adults. Contact with a predator was an important influencer of dropping for both species, and most drops occurred from adjacent to the predator. Dropping appears to be a defence adaptively deployed only when the risk of imminent predation is high; factors that increase dropping likelihood include presence of faster-foraging predators such as adult ladybirds, predator proximity, and contact between aphid and predator.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)603-623
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2021


  • Aphididae
  • Defence
  • Dropping behaviour
  • Predator-prey behaviour
  • Predator-prey interaction
  • Risk assessment


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