Relationship between adult and larval host plant selection and larval performance in the generalist moth, Trichoplusia ni
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- Shikano, I., Akhtar, Y. & Isman, M.B. Arthropod-Plant Interactions (2010) 4: 197. doi:10.1007/s11829-010-9100-9
Adult oviposition preferences are expected to correlate with host plant suitability for the development of their offspring. For most lepidopteran species, this is particularly important as the hatching neonate larvae of many species are relatively immobile. Thus, the site of oviposition chosen by a female adult can greatly influence the probability of survival for her offspring. In the present study, we investigated the oviposition preference of adult Trichoplusia ni moths for six plant species to determine whether they could accurately rank the suitability of the plants for larval development. We also compared oviposition preferences to neonate larval acceptance and preference to determine whether the adult host range matched that of larval diet breath. Our results indicate that in two-choice and no-choice tests adult T. ni were able to rank the plants accurately, with the exception of anise hyssop. However, when given a choice of all six plants together, they laid more eggs on a plant that was not suitable for larval survival. Larvae accepted and fed on all plants in no-choice tests, and accurately ranked them according to larval performance. We conclude that neonate larvae are better able than adults to rank plants according to larval performance, and that larval diet breadth is wider than the range of plants accepted by adults. We also provide a discussion of the reduced accuracy of adult oviposition preference with increased plant choices.