Biological Invasions

, 10:1159

Effects of non-native plants on the native insect community of Delaware

  • Marion E. Zuefle
  • William P. Brown
  • Douglas W. Tallamy
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10530-007-9193-y

Cite this article as:
Zuefle, M.E., Brown, W.P. & Tallamy, D.W. Biol Invasions (2008) 10: 1159. doi:10.1007/s10530-007-9193-y


Due to the lack of a co-evolutionary history, the novel defenses presented by introduced plants may be insurmountable to many native insects. Accordingly, non-native plants are expected to support less insect biomass than native plants. Further, native insect specialists may be more affected by introduced plants than native generalist herbivores, resulting in decreased insect diversity on non-native plants due to the loss of specialists. To test these hypotheses, we used a common garden experiment to compare native insect biomass, species richness, and the proportion of native specialist to native generalist insects supported by 45 species of woody plants. Plants were classified into three groupings, with 10 replicates of each species: 15 species native to Delaware (Natives), 15 non-native species that were congeneric with a member of the Native group (Non-native Congeners), and 15 non-native species that did not have a congener present in the United States (Aliens). Native herbivorous insects were sampled in May, June, and July of 2004 and 2005. Overall, insect biomass was greater on Natives than Non-native Congeners and Aliens, but insect biomass varied unpredictably between congeneric pair members. Counter to expectations, Aliens held more insect biomass than did Non-native Congeners. There was no difference in species richness or the number of specialist and generalist species collected among the three plant groupings in either year, although our protocol was biased against sampling specialists. If these results generalize to other studies, loss of native insect biomass due to introduced plants may negatively affect higher trophic levels of the ecosystem.


Insect communitiesInvasive plantsPhytophagous insects



United States Department of Agriculture

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marion E. Zuefle
    • 1
  • William P. Brown
    • 2
  • Douglas W. Tallamy
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Entomology and Wildlife EcologyUniversity of DelawareNewarkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesKutztown UniversityKutztownUSA