ENT-50806 Insect-Plant Interactions


Studiepunten 6.00

Independent study
Course coordinator(s)prof. dr. ir. JJA van Loon
Lecturer(s)prof. dr. ir. JJA van Loon
Examiner(s)prof. dr. ir. JJA van Loon

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

2nd year BSc curricula Biology and Plant Sciences prepare adequately for this course.

Continuation courses:

ENT-30806 Fundamental and Applied Aspects of the Biology of Insects; Thesis Entomology (ENT-80424/80439), Thesis Plant Physiology (PPH-80424/80439).


Note: This course has a maximum number of participants. The deadline for registration is one week earlier than usual. See Academic Year.(http://www.wur.nl/en/Education-Programmes/Current-Students/Agenda-Calendar-Academic-Year.htm) -> Registration for Courses.

Flowering plants and insects represent the two largest taxa of interacting terrestrial organisms, both in terms of abundance of species as well as in amount of biomass. The study ofInsect-plant interactions covers problems at different levels of biological analysis. This course focuses on the mechanistic analysis of nutritional and behavioural mechanisms of insects, and on the adaptation of plants to insects: defence against harmful insects and attraction of pollinators and natural enemies of herbivorous insects particularly through the production of attractive, repellent and/or toxic metabolites. Ecological and evolutionary aspects are also addressed, using insights derived from studies at the organismal level as useful elements in ecological models. In addition, observations at the behavioural/ physiological level can only be understood when put in an ecological perspective. Attention is paid to applications in crop protection.

Learning outcomes:

After having attended this course, the student is expected to be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:
- principles underlying molecular, physiological and biochemical interactions between plants and insects;
- implications of these interactions at the level of the organism on processes at other trophic levels and at the population level. The student should be able to define and explain concepts, provide arguments and give examples in writing in reply to exam questions.
The student is expected to be able to:
- translate a biological question into a feasible experimental approach;
- demonstrate experimental skills in a range of methods and techniques commonly used in the subject area;
- design, organise and carry out experiments.
The student is expected to:
- master the statistical analysis of quantitative data collected during experiments;
- interprete results obtained in the context of existing literature, after a critical evaluation.
Learning outcomes 3 - 7 will be evaluated on the basis of a written report of max. 2000 words in the format of a scientific article. The student is expected to be able to present the research carried out orally to fellow students at the end of the course, making use of supportive electronic media.


- working sessions on chapters of the book Insect-plant Biology (see below) will be presented and discussed;
- mini-research: a project is selected from a list of possibilities, based on available plant and insect species and techniques. A range of measuring techniques and (semi-)automated set-ups for quantifying sensory and behavioural responses in insects and analytical equipment to quantify (volatile) metabolite formation in plants in response to insect herbivory are available. The results will be reported using the format of a short scientific publication of maximally 2000 words;
- oral presentation.


- written examination on contents of the course book and lectures (essay questions) 50%;
- evaluation of report on mini-research project (40%);
- presentation of project results to peers (10%).


L.M. Schoonhoven, J.J.A. van Loon & M. Dicke (2005) Insect-Plant Biology. Oxford University Press. 421 p. Additional recent literature supplementing the book content will be made available during the course.

Verplicht voor: WUEBCBSc Minor Ecology and Biological Control of Insects6WD