Larval competition is particularly prevalent among grain beetles that remain within their mother-selected grain throughout development, and the behavioral process of competition is usually inferred by the competition outcome. The Mexican bean weevil Zabrotes subfasciatus (Boheman) is subjected to resource availability variation because of the diversity of common bean types and sizes, from small (e.g., kidney beans) to large (e.g., cranberry beans). The competition process was identified in the Mexican bean weevil reared on kidney and cranberry beans by inference from the competition outcome and by direct observation through digital X-ray imaging. Increased larval density negatively affected adult emergence in kidney beans and reduced adult body mass in both kidney and cranberry beans. Developmental time was faster in cranberry beans. The results allowed for increased larval fitness (i.e., higher larval biomass produced per grain), with larval density reaching a maximum plateau >5 hatched larvae per kidney bean, whereas in cranberry beans, larval fitness linearly increased with density to 13 hatched larvae per bean. These results, together with X-ray imaging without evidence of direct aggressive interaction among larvae, indicate scramble competition, with multiple larvae emerging per grain. However, higher reproductive output was detected for adults from lower density competition with better performance on cranberry beans. Larger populations and fitter adults are expected in intermediate larval densities primarily in cranberry beans where grain losses should be greater.
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Vol. 108 • No. 4