Temperature has an overriding role compared to photoperiod in regulating the seasonal timing of winter moth egg hatching

Natalie E. van Dis* (Corresponding author), Lucia Salis, Marcel E. Visser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


To accurately predict species’ phenology under climate change, we need to gain a detailed mechanistic understanding of how different environmental cues interact to produce the seasonal timing response. In the winter moth (Operophtera brumata), seasonal timing of egg hatching is strongly affected by ambient temperature and has been under strong climate change-induced selection over the past 25 years. However, it is unclear whether photoperiod received at the egg stage also influences timing of egg hatching. Here, we investigated the relative contribution of photoperiod and temperature in regulating winter moth egg development using two split-brood experiments. We experimentally shifted the photoperiod eggs received by 2–4 weeks compared to the actual calendar date and measured the timing of egg hatching, both at a constant temperature and in combination with two naturally changing temperature treatments – mimicking a cold and a warm year. We found an eight-fold larger effect of temperature compared to photoperiod on egg development time. Moreover, the very small photoperiod effects we found were outweighed by both between- and within-clutch variation in egg development time. Thus, we conclude that photoperiod received at the egg stage does likely not play a substantial role in regulating the seasonal timing of egg hatching in the winter moth. These insights into the regulatory mechanism of seasonal timing could have important implications for predicting insect climate change adaptation, as we might expect different targets of selection depending on the relative contribution of different environmental cues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)743-750
Number of pages8
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2024


  • Animals
  • Climate Change
  • Moths/physiology
  • Ovum
  • Photoperiod
  • Seasons
  • Temperature
  • Climate change
  • Insect dormancy
  • Diapause
  • Operophtera brumata
  • Phenological mismatch


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