, Volume 50, Issue 3, pp 370-375

Host plant growth form and diversity: Effects on abundance and feeding preference of a specialist herbivore, Acalymma vittata (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae)

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Summary

Abundances of the specialist herbivore, Acalymma vittata (Fab.) (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae), were assessed in small experimental plots with three levels of plant diversity (cucumber monoculture, cucumber/corn, and cucumber/tomato) and two levels of host plant growth form (horizontal on the ground and vertical, staked up or growing up other plant species). Host plant growth form more strongly affected beetle abundances than did plant diversity; greater numbers were found on vertically growing than on horizontally growing cucumber plants. The combination of cucumber monoculture and vertical growth form supported significantly greater herbivore abundances than did any other type of plot, emphasizing a strong interaction between diversity and growth form. Beetles were not more common in monocultures with horizontal growth forms than in mixed species plots, and beetles did not respond differently to plots with corn and plots with tomatoes.

Feeding experiments demonstrated that the plant diversity under which a host plant is grown strongly influenced herbivore feeding preference. Beetles given a choice of cucumber leaves grown in monoculture and in plots with tomatoes exhibited individual differences in their food selection behavior, however, a significantly greater number of beetles preferred monoculture leaves. Those individuals preferring monoculture leaves and those individuals preferring leaves from plots with tomatoes did not differ in either absolute or relative amounts of feeding damage per leaf.

Neither plant size nor the date on which plots were colonized by beetles explained the differences in herbivore abundance. It is suggested that differences in movement patterns and plant quality contributed to the greater numbers of beetles on plants growing vertically in monocultures.