Submitted to: Mid-South Entomologists online journal
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/15/2011
Publication Date: 3/1/2012
Citation: Allen, K.C., Jones, G.D. 2012. Utilization of pollen to examine insect foraging and movement. Mid-South Entomologists online journal. 5:31-32.
Technical Abstract: The outer wall of a pollen grain is called the exine and protects the genetic material located inside the grain from desiccation and radiation. It is made up largely of a complex molecule called sporopollenin, which is durable and does not easily decay. The exine also exhibits specific patterns which are used to identify the plant of origin to the family, genus, and often species rank. Insects often become “contaminated” with pollen, either internally or externally, during feeding activities on a particular plant. Due to their unique characteristics and their common association with insects, pollen grains have been utilized to examine foraging habits and movement of some insect species. Pollen grains found on some moths that were collected hundreds of kilometers from the nearest plant distribution have been used to indicate long-range migration. Also, the finding of pollen grains and the identification of the plants producing these grains in the gut of various insect species provide information on foraging habits. In a preliminary study, a process called “acetolysis” was used in an effort to recover pigweed pollen grains from tarnished plant bugs. Plant bugs were fed pigweed pollen in the laboratory and removed from the pigweed after three days of feeding and placed in a container with some water saturated floral foam. The tarnished plant bugs were frozen at different time intervals after removal from the pigweed. Pigweed pollen was found in over 50% of the tarnished plant bug samples after four days of being removed from the pigweed.