, Volume 156, Issue 3, pp 559–568 | Cite as

Escaping an evolutionary trap: preference and performance of a native insect on an exotic invasive host

  • Margaret S. Keeler
  • Frances S. Chew
Plant-Animal Interactions - Original Paper


Exotic plants may act as population sinks or evolutionary traps for native herbivores. The native butterfly Pieris oleracea lays eggs on garlic mustard, Alliaria petiolata, but larvae develop very poorly on this exotic invasive plant. We examined oviposition preference of individual females and larval performance of their offspring for individuals from one area where garlic mustard is well established and one where it is absent. These data were used to assess whether garlic mustard is being incorporated into or excluded from the diet. Females from the area without garlic mustard showed a wide range of preference, families had low larval survival on garlic mustard, and larval survivorship showed no correlation with mothers’ preferences. Females from the area with garlic mustard preferred it to the native host, and larval survivorship on garlic mustard was positively correlated with the mother’s preference. Individuals surviving on garlic mustard took longer to pupate and weighed >30% less compared to pupae reared on normal hosts. Our results suggest that where garlic mustard is well established P. oleracea may be adapting to this plant by both improved larval performance and increased adult female oviposition preference for it.


Pieris Alliaria petiolata Oviposition Diet breadth Population sink 



We thank the Urie family (Craftsbury, Vermont) for permission to collect on their land; Sheena Harris, Zoe Hastings, Mayu Uchihashi, and Richard Bryan for laboratory and field assistance; Ihsan Al-Shebaz for determining some species identifications; Bernd Blossey for correspondence about garlic mustard; Colin Orians for laboratory equipment; Carol Boggs for sharing unpublished results on P. napi macdunnoughii; Michael Reed, Durwood Marshall, and Sara Lewis for statistical assistance; Carol Boggs, Dick Casagrande, Ross Feldberg, Sara Lewis, Colin Orians, Jan A. Pechenik, Michael Reed, J. Alan A. Renwick, and two reviewers for improving the manuscript. We thank Tufts Institute for the Environment and the Arabis Fund for financial support. All collections of living material and experiments were done in compliance with current law, including permits for collection of Massachusetts threatened species, no. 024.05SCI.


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© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyTufts UniversityMedfordUSA

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