Root-feeding insects can affect the performance of aboveground insect herbivores when they are forced to feed on the same host plant. Here we explored whether the oviposition behaviour of two closely related herbivorous species (cabbage butterflies; Lepidoptera: Pieridae) is influenced by root-feeding insects, when they are given the chance to choose between host plants with and without root herbivores. Considering that egg load is an important physiological factor influencing the foraging behaviour of insects, we also examined whether root-feeding insects differentially influence oviposition preference in butterflies with low and high egg loads. Oviposition preference in both butterfly species with low and high egg loads was monitored using host plants with and without root herbivores. To ascertain the status of butterfly age with low and high egg loads, the oviducts of a separate group of butterflies was dissected to record the number of immature and mature eggs in butterflies of various ages. Pieris brassicae L. butterflies with low egg loads preferred plants without root herbivores over plants with root herbivores, and laid more egg clutches on the leaves of plants that were not attacked by root herbivores. Butterflies with comparatively high egg loads also selected a larger proportion of plants without root herbivores, but laid a similar number of egg clutches on the plant shoots independent of the presence or absence of root herbivores belowground. Independent of the age and egg load, Pieris rapae L. butterflies selected a larger proportion of plants not attacked by root herbivores to lay eggs, but the number of eggs laid was similar in plants with and without root herbivores. This study shows that belowground insects can influence behavioural decisions of aboveground insect herbivores. Interestingly, the strength of these interactions depends on the physiological state of the insects which is probably correlated with their perception of environmental quality.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEntomologia Experimentalis et Applicata
Journal publication date2010

ID: 257704