Symposium: Insect Behavioral Ecology--'90: Introduction to Attack and Defense: Behavioral Ecology of Defense: Medieval Insect Behavioral Ecology, and Chaos

J. H. Frank, E. D. McCoy


Behavior of ants and bees was perceived by medieval European writers as virtuous. Singing by crickets and cicadas was perceived as profligate. Medieval writers used these precepts to impart order to human behavior. Aggressive behavior by antlions was noted by a medieval writer, but defensive behavior by insects, the complement of aggression, was overlooked. Crickets were credited with medicinal properties, perhaps by error of transcription. Public perception of insect behavior may have deteriorated in the ensuing centuries. Plants use chemicals in defense against herbivores, and humans use chemicals extracted from plants to defend other plants. Herbivores extract chemicals from plants in defense against predators and parasitoids. Parasitoids use chemical cues to detect herbivores, aided by the plants themselves. The concept of chaos provides an explanation of some complexities, though it seems the antithesis of medieval order.

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