Food distance and its effect on nutrient balancing in a mobile insect herbivore Academic Article uri icon


  • We investigated how the distance between foods of differing nutrient content affects macronutrient (protein and digestible carbohydrate) regulation and the patterns of food acquisition, movement and feeding activity in fifth-instar nymphs of Locusta migratoria (L.) (Orthoptera: Acrididae). We placed individual insects into one of three differently sized circular arenas (20, 40 or 80 cm diameter) that contained four dishes of chemically defined synthetic food. One of these dishes contained high-protein, low-carbohydrate food (P), and the other three dishes contained low-protein, high-carbohydrate food (C). Alone, these foods are nutritionally unbalanced, but together they are complementary. Regardless of arena size, locusts regulated their protein-carbohydrate intake to similar points, and in all three arenas they ate preferentially from the dish containing the P-food. We also recorded the patterns of foraging behaviour for 12 h on days 1 and 4 of the experiment, which allowed us to determine the effect of distance between foods and whether behaviour was modified with experience in the different arenas. Locusts' foraging behaviour in small arenas was similar on days 1 and 4, and the time they spent in different parts of the arena did not differ from that predicted by the simplest random probability model. In contrast, the foraging behaviour of locusts in the medium and large arenas changed between days 1 and 4, including spending more time in the area of the arena containing the P-food and visiting fewer of the C-food dishes. We discuss how distance between foods influences foraging strategies, and the possible role of learning in its development. 2003 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

published proceedings

  • Animal Behaviour

author list (cited authors)

  • Behmer, S. T., Cox, E., Raubenheimer, D., & Simpson, S. J.

citation count

  • 45

complete list of authors

  • Behmer, Spencer T||Cox, Edward||Raubenheimer, David||Simpson, Stephen J

publication date

  • October 2003