Diet and feeding behaviour

The diet of arthropods varies with the species but may consist of plants, animals (including other arthropods) or decomposing organic matter.

Depending on what an organism eats, it is described as being either phytophagous, zoophagous or saprophagous.

This section will help you identify insects and other arthropods based on their diet.

Phytophagous

Refers to organisms that feed on plants.

Anthophagous

Feeds on flowers.

  • Ectophagous: Exposed insect that feeds without penetrating its animal or plant host.
  • Free: Moves about freely to feed.
  • Gall-forming: Induces the formation of galls and feeds on their tissues.
  • Leaftier: Ties two or more leaves together with silk threads, forming a tube in which to hide and feed.

Conophytous

Feeds on plant reproductive structures and only lives in seeds, cones and pollen.

  • Borer: Bores into and feeds on the woody and non-woody portions of plants.
  • Endophagous: Feeds within an animal or plant host.

Frugivorous

Feeds on fruit or fructifications of plants.

  • Borer: Bores into and feeds on the woody and non-woody portions of plants.
  • Endophagous: Feeds within an animal or plant host.
  • Gall-forming: Induces the formation of galls and feeds on their tissues.

Heteroconophagous

Feeds occasionally on seeds and cones, but usually lives and feeds on stems and needles.

  • Borer: Bores into and feeds on the woody and non-woody portions of plants.

Nectarivorous

Feeds on nectar.

  • Ectophagous: Exposed insect that feeds without penetrating its animal or plant host.
  • Free: Moves about freely to feed.

Phloeophagous

Feeds on phloem.

  • Borer: Bores into and feeds on the woody and non-woody portions of plants.
  • Ectophagous: Exposed insect that feeds without penetrating its animal or plant host.
  • Endophagous: Feeds within an animal or plant host.
  • Gall-forming: Induces the formation of galls and feeds on their tissues.

Phyllophagous

Feeds on the leaves of plants.

  • Borer: Bores into and feeds on the woody and non-woody portions of plants.
  • Casebearer: Insects that hide under a case or a shelter made by cutting and tying pieces of leaf together with silk. They feed and move around on the leaf surface within this shelter.
  • Ectophagous: Exposed insect that feeds without penetrating its animal or plant host.
  • Free-living defoliator: Feeds on and moves about freely on foliage.
  • Gall-forming: Induces the formation of galls and feeds on their tissues.
  • Gall-inhabiting: Lives in a gall made by another insect.
  • Leaffolder: Folds a leaf in two to make a shelter for hiding or feeding.
  • Leafroller: Hides and feeds inside a leaf or the tip of a leaf that it has rolled up into a cigar-shaped tube.
  • Leaftier: Ties two or more leaves together with silk threads, forming a tube in which to hide and feed.
  • Miner: Feeds inside the blade of a leaf, between the epidermal layers, or beneath the bark of plants, by first excavating a mine into these tissues.
  • Nesting: Spins a silk nest or tent in order to hide or feed.
  • Piercing-sucking: Has specialized mouthparts for sucking the fluids from plants, thereby causing deformities or killing the affected plant sections.
  • Skeletonizer: Devours the upper layer of leaves but not the veins, thus producing a skeletal appearance.
  • Webworm: Spins a silk shelter in which to hide or feed.

Pollinivorous

Feeds on pollen.

  • Free: Moves about freely to feed.
  • Webworm: Spins a silk shelter in which to hide or feed.

Root-feeding

Feeds on the roots of plants.

  • Borer: Bores into and feeds on the woody and non-woody portions of plants.
  • Free: Moves about freely to feed.
  • Geophilous: Lives in or on the ground, or frequently comes into contact with it.
  • Webworm: Spins a silk shelter in which to hide or feed.

Sap-feeding

Feeds on plant sap.

  • Free: Moves about freely to feed.
  • Piercing-sucking: Has specialized mouthparts for sucking the fluids from plants, thereby causing deformities or killing the affected plant sections.

Seed-feeding

Feeds on seeds.

  • Borer: Bores into and feeds on the woody and non-woody portions of plants.
  • Endophagous: Feeds within an animal or plant host.
  • Piercing-sucking: Has specialized mouthparts for sucking the fluids from plants, thereby causing deformities or killing the affected plant sections.

Xylophagous

Feeds on woody tissues (wood).

  • Borer: Bores into and feeds on the woody and non-woody portions of plants.
  • Borer: Bores into and feeds on the woody and non-woody portions of plants.
  • Ectophagous: Exposed insect that feeds without penetrating its animal or plant host.
  • Endophagous: Feeds within an animal or plant host.
  • Free-living defoliator: Feeds on and moves about freely on foliage.
  • Gall-forming: Induces the formation of galls and feeds on their tissues.
  • Miner: Feeds inside the blade of a leaf, between the epidermal layers, or beneath the bark of plants, by first excavating a mine into these tissues.
  • Saproxylophagous: Develops in partially decomposed woody debris.
Saprophagous

Refers to organisms that feed on decaying or decayed plant or animal matter.

Detritivorous

Feeds on detritus and decomposing organic matter.

  • Endophytic: Lives within plant or tree tissue.

Fungivorous

Feeds on visible aerial parts of fungi.

  • Geophilous: Lives in or on the ground, or frequently comes into contact with it.

Mycetophagous

Feeds on the underground mycelium of fungi.

  • Endophytic: Lives within plant or tree tissue.
  • Mycetophilous: Feeds on fungi, seeks fungi and feeds on fungi-eating larvae.

Mycophagous

Feeds on mould.

  • Endophytic: Lives within plant or tree tissue.

Necrophagous

Feeds on dead or decomposing animal matter.

  • Necrophilous: Lives on dead bodies. Associated with dead and decaying plants or animals.

Saproxylophagous

Develops in partially decomposed woody debris.

  • Borer: Bores into and feeds on the woody and non-woody portions of plants.
  • Endophagous: Feeds within an animal or plant host.

Scatophagous

Feeds on dung or excrement.

  • Scatophilous: Lives in association with dung or excrement.
Zoophagous

Refers to organisms that feed on animals (including other arthropods).

Parasite

Organism that lives on or in and feeds on a living plant or animal (host). The parasite gradually weakens the host and may or may not kill it.

  • Ectoparasite: Lives on the outside of its host's body without entering it or killing it.

Parasitoid

Lives and grows on or whitin a living insect. Kills its host by consuming its tissues before pupation or metamorphosis into an adult.

  • Endoparasite: Develops as a parasite within the body of another organism at the expense and to the detriment of host.

Predator

Hunts, captures and kills several types of prey (insects and acarids) over the course of its development.

  • Free: Moves about freely to feed.
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