First evidence of protein-carbohydrate regulation in a plant bug (Lygus hesperus) Academic Article uri icon


  • Lygus bugs are highly polyphagous piercing/sucking insects found throughout North America. Collectively, they have been reported to feed on over 330 plant species (one of the broadest host range ever documented for a group of insects); they also feed on many economically important crops. Despite its prevalence across North America and status as a common pest in many agroecosystems, very little is known about how Lygus bugs regulate their intake of nutrients. In reality, little is known about nutrient regulation for most hemipterans, specifically non-phloem feeding species in the suborder Heteroptera. This likely reflects difficulties in developing adequate artificial diets for insects with piercing/sucking mouthparts. There is, however, an artificial diet for L. hersperus, and in this study we modified it and performed choice and no-choice experiments to determine how L. hesperus regulates its intake of two macronutrients - protein (p) and carbohydrates (c) - that are tightly linked to survival and performance in other insect herbivores. In choice experiments L. hesperus was allowed to select between two foods with different protein:carbohydrate ratios. We documented strong regulation for protein and carbohydrates, with late instar nymphs selecting a slightly protein-biased intake target (protein-carbohydrate ratio = 1.5:1). We also performed no-choice experiments, where nymphs were restricted to a single food. Here, the protein-carbohydrate ratio of their food had a strong impact on survival, which was highest for nymphs reared on the treatment with a protein-carbohydrate ratio closest to the self-selected intake target (determined by the choice experiments), but no significant impact on developmental time or mass gain. Our data are the first of their kind for a non-phloem feeding hemipteran and provide a starting point for more broadly understanding and further investigating the nutritional ecology/physiology of Lygus bugs. Our study also provides a framework for exploring nutrient regulation in other hemipterans and for optimizing artificial diets for piercing/sucking insects, especially heteropterans.

author list (cited authors)

  • Deans, C., Sword, G. A., & Behmer, S. T.

citation count

  • 2

publication date

  • May 2019