Experience of insect herbivores and their natural enemies in the natal habitat is considered to affect their likelihood of accepting a similar habitat or plant/host during dispersal. Growing phenology of food plants and the number of generations in the insects further determines lability of insect behavioural responses at eclosion. We studied the effect of rearing history on oviposition preference in a multivoltine herbivore (Pieris brassicae), and foraging behaviour in the endoparasitoid wasp (Cotesia glomerata) a specialist enemy of P. brassicae. Different generations of the insects are obligatorily associated with different plants in the Brassicaceae, e.g., Brassica rapa, Brassica nigra and Sinapis arvensis, exhibiting different seasonal phenologies in The Netherlands. Food plant preference of adults was examined when the insects had been reared on each of the three plant species for one generation. Rearing history only marginally affected oviposition preference of P. brassicae butterflies, but they never preferred the plant on which they had been reared. C. glomerata had a clear preference for host-infested B. rapa plants, irrespective of rearing history. Higher levels of the glucosinolate breakdown product 3-butenyl isothiocyanate in the headspace of B. rapa plants could explain enhanced attractiveness. Our results reveal the potential importance of flexible plant choice for female multivoltine insects in nature
Data from: Integrating insect life history and food plant phenology: flexible maternal choice is adaptive.