Prey Handling of Toxic and Non-toxic Lepidopteran Prey by Chinese Mantid, Tenodera sinensis

Monarch caterpillars, Danaus plexippus, sequester toxic cardenolides from milkweed plants. This defense is effective against most predators, but the Chinese mantid, Tenodera sinensis, is able to consume them without any apparent ill effects. It has been shown that mantids consume monarch caterpillars by gutting them, allowing the gut material to fall from the prey without further consumption.

They do not engage in this behavior when consuming non-toxic European corn borers, Ostrinia nubilalis, or wax worms, Galleria mellonella, suggesting avoidance of prey toxicity. We tested the prey toxicity hypothesis and the alternative hypothesis that the gutting behavior reflects a more generalized avoidance of lower-quality (i.e., less-nutritive) plant material…