A Juanita Sphinx (Proserpinus juanita) caterpillar at Konza Prairie in northeastern Kansas. Caterpillars and other plant consumers prefer to eat plants with higher salt content. Photo credit: David Rintoul.

Herbivores and fungal pathogens take it with a grain of salt

Welti, Ellen; Kaspari, Michael Humans, caterpillars, and fungal pathogens agree, food tastes better with a pinch of salt. While humans are omnivores and can obtain sodium when eating animal products like meat and dairy, herbivores and detritivores have fewer salty menu items. This is why porcupines will eat backpackers’ sweaty hiking boots, deer come to salt licks, and sweat bees seek human perspiration. Unlike animals, … Continue reading Herbivores and fungal pathogens take it with a grain of salt

X-ray microscope close-up image of a grass leaf surface showing silicon deposits in yellow/red.

Caterpillar pests find leaf silicon particles less appealing than drought-induced changes to their host plants

Rebecca K. Vandegeer, Ximena Cibils-Stewart, Richard Wuhrer, Susan E. Hartley, David T. Tissue, Scott N. Johnson Farmers face many challenges in the management of their crops, including insect pests and drought that can both drastically reduce yields. Pest management using chemical pesticides can be costly, environmentally damaging and overuse can lead to pesticide resistance. An alternative management option may be to harness naturally occurring plant-based … Continue reading Caterpillar pests find leaf silicon particles less appealing than drought-induced changes to their host plants