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Recent studies on adult diapause in the western tarnished plant bug, Lygus hesperus Knight (Heteroptera: Miridae), have highlighted the need to identify a reliable external marker for the internal changes that differentiate a normal animal from one that is overwintering. To test the efficacy of a color based discrimination system, L. hesperus of both genders were reared from eggs through day 10 of adulthood under a 10 hour photophase at a constant temperature. They were separated into three color groups (yellow, pale green, dark green), then dissected for diapause categorization based on internal development. Most yellow individuals were in diapause, dark green individuals were not, and pale green ones were mixed. A group of 25 assessors, naïve with regard to L. hesperus development, were then asked to use a simplified color criteria (yellow = diapause, green = non-diapause) to estimate the status of a mixture of diapausing and non-diapausing adults of both genders aged two to seven days post-eclosion. After dissection to verify diapause status, assessor accuracy was found to be ineffective for assessing adults of both sexes younger than four days because color differences, which increased with age, were subtle or non-existent at this stage. For four to seven-day-old bugs, 84% of females and 67% of males were correctly categorized, on average. Incorrect assessments in all but the youngest males over-identified diapause, but for females there was no trend in miscategorizations. Overall, the results indicate that diapause status can be adequately discriminated by color assessment, and with greatest accuracy when sampling older females. However, factors other than photoperiod appear to also influence coloration.
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