, Volume 74, Issue 3, pp 432–437 | Cite as

Effects of different types of damage on the chemistry of birch foliage, and the responses of birch feeding insects

  • S. E. Hartley
  • J. H. Lawton
Original Papers


  1. 1.

    We collected insect-grazed, mined, and holepunched leaves of Betula pendula Roth, and assessed their palatability to four species of birch-feeding lepidopteran caterpillars (Apocheima pilosaria D. & S., Erranis defolaria Clerck, Epirrita dilutata D. & S., and Euproctis similis Fuessly) in laboratory preference tests. The palatability of hole-punched leaves of different ages was also determined, using Apocheima pilosaria only.

  2. 2.

    The total phenolic content and protein-precipitating ability of undamaged and all three types of damaged leaves was measured, together with the water content of mined, insect-grazed and undamaged leaves.

  3. 3.

    Only the mined leaves were consistently avoided in the feeding trials; the other sorts of damage were often preferred by the caterpillars, even though phenolic levels increased in all the damaged leaves. The insects appeared either to be indifferent to changes in the protein-precipitating ability of leaves, or actually preferred leaves showing the largest increase.

  4. 4.

    The results show clear qualitative as well as quantitative differences in birch's response to different types of damage. They also show that herbivore preferences depend upon both the damage type and the species of insect being tested. Preferences are difficult or impossible to relate to changes in phenolic levels, or to the protein-precipitating ability of leaves. The possible consequences of these results for ‘induced defense’ theory are discussed.


Key words

Phenolics Leaf-damage Food-choice Geometridae Betula 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bennet SE (1965) Tannic acid as a repellent and toxin to alfalfa weevil. J Econ Ent 58:372–373Google Scholar
  2. Bergelson J, Lawton JH (1988) Does foliage damage influence interactions between insect herbivores of birch and predators? Ecology (in press)Google Scholar
  3. Bergelson J, Fowler S, Hartley S (1986) The effects of foliage damage on casebearing moth larvae, Coleophora serratella, feeding on birch. Ecol Ent 11:241–250Google Scholar
  4. Bernays EA (1978) Tannins: an alternative viewpoint. Ent Exp Appl 24:44–53Google Scholar
  5. Bernays EA, Chapman RF (1977) Deterrent chemicals as a basis of oligophagy in Locusta migratoria (L.). Ecol Ent 2:1–18Google Scholar
  6. Carrasco A, Boudet AM, Marigo S (1978) Enhanced resistance of tomato plants to Fusarium by controlled stimulation of their natural phenolic production. Physiol Plant Pathol 12:225–232Google Scholar
  7. Carroll CR, Hoffman CA (1980) Chemical feeding deterrent mobilised in response to insect herbivory and counter-adaptation by Epilachna tredecimnotata. Science 209:414–416Google Scholar
  8. Coley PD, Bryant JP, Chapin FS (1985) Resource availability and plant anti-herbivore defences. Science 230:895–899Google Scholar
  9. Edwards PJ, Wratten SD (1985) Induced defences against insect grazing: fact or artefact? Oikos 44:70–74Google Scholar
  10. Farkas GL, Kiraly Z (1962) The role of phenolic compounds in the physiology of plant diseases and disease resistance. Phytopath Z 44:105–150Google Scholar
  11. Faeth SH (1986) Indirect interactions between temporally separated herbivores mediated by the host plant. Ecology 67:474–494Google Scholar
  12. Feeny P (1968) The effect of oak leaf tannins on larval growth of winter moth Operophtera brumata. J Ins Physiol 14:805–817Google Scholar
  13. Fowler SV (1983) The foliage feeding insects on birch: plant fitness loss, apparency and the levels of anti-herbivore defences. PhD Thesis University of YorkGoogle Scholar
  14. Fowler SV (1984) Foliage value, apparency, and defence investment in birch seedlings and trees. Oecologia (Berlin) 62:387–392Google Scholar
  15. Fowler SV, Lawton JH (1985) Rapidly induced defenses and talking trees: the Devils Advocate position. Am Nat 126:181–195Google Scholar
  16. Fowler SV, MacGarvin M (1986) The effects of leaf damage on the performance of insect herbivores on birch, Betula pubescens. J Anim Ecol 55:565–574Google Scholar
  17. Friend J (1979) Phenolic substances and plant disease. Rec Adv Phytochem 12:557–588Google Scholar
  18. Green TR, Ryan CA (1972) Wound-induced proteinase inhibitor in plant leaves: a possible defense mechanism against insects. Science 175:776–777Google Scholar
  19. Haslam E (1981) Vegetable tannins. In: Conn EE (ed) The biochemistry of plants, vol 7, Secondary plant products, Academic Press, London, pp 527–556Google Scholar
  20. Haukioja E (1979) Anti-herbivore strategies in mountain birch at the tree-line. Holartic Ecol 2:272–274Google Scholar
  21. Haukioja E, Hanhimaki S (1985) Rapid wound-induced resistance in white birch (Betula pubescens) foliage to the geometrid Epirrita autumnata: a comparison of trees and moths within and outside the outbreak range of the moth. Oecologia (Berlin) 65:223–228Google Scholar
  22. Haukioja E, Neuvonen S (1985) Induced long-term resistance of birch foliage against defoliators: defensive or incidental? Ecology 66:1303–1308Google Scholar
  23. Heinrich B, Collins SL (1983) Caterpillar leaf damage and the game of hide and seek with birds. Ecology 64:592–602Google Scholar
  24. Isman MB, Duffey SS (1982) Toxicity of tomato phenolic compounds to the fruitworm Heliothis zea. Ent Exp Appl 31:370–376Google Scholar
  25. Jones C, Firn R (1978) Some allelochemics of Pteridium aquilinum and their involvement in resistance to Pieris brassicae. Biochem Syst Ecol 7:187–192Google Scholar
  26. Karban R, Carey JR (1984) Induced resistance of cotton seedlings to mites. Science 225:53–54Google Scholar
  27. Klocke JA, Chan BG (1982) Effects of cotton condensed tannin on feeding and digestion in Heliothis zea. J Ins Physiol 28:911–915Google Scholar
  28. Kraft SK, Denno RF (1982) Feeding responses of adapted and nonadapted insects to the defensive properties of Baccharis halifolia L. (Compositae). Oecologia (Berlin) 52:156–163Google Scholar
  29. Lawton JH (1987) Food shortage in the midst of apparent plenty? the case for birch feeding insects. In: Velthuis HW (ed) Proceedings of the third European Congress of Entomology, Nederlandse Entomologische Vereniging, Amsterdam, 219–228Google Scholar
  30. Lewis AC (1979) Feeding preference for diseased and wilted sunflower in the grasshopper Melanoplus differentialis. Ent Exp Appl 26:202–207Google Scholar
  31. Martin JS, Martin MM (1982) Tannin assays in ecological studies: lack of correlation between phenolics, proanthocyanidins and protein-precipitating constituents in mature foliage of six oak species. Oecologia (Berlin) 54:205–211Google Scholar
  32. Martin MM, Martin JS (1984) Surfactants: their role in preventing the precipitation of proteins by tannins in insect guts. Oecologia (Berlin) 61:342–345Google Scholar
  33. Mole S, Waterman PG (1987) A critical analysis of techniques for measuring tannins in ecological studies 2. Techniques for biochemically defining tannins. Oecologia (Berlin) 72:148–156Google Scholar
  34. Odell TW, Godwin PA (1984) Host selection by Blepharipa pratensis (Meigen), a tachinid parasite of the gypsy moth Lymantria dispar L. J Chem Ecol 10:311–320Google Scholar
  35. Parker RF (1979) Introductory statistics for biology. Second edition. Edward Arnold. LondonGoogle Scholar
  36. Rees SB, Harborne JB (1985) The role of sesquiterpene lactones and phenolics in the chemical defense of the chicory plant. Phytochemistry 24:2225–2231Google Scholar
  37. Rhoades DF, Cates RG (1976) Towards a general theory of plant anti-herbivore chemistry. Rec Adv Phytochem 10:168–213Google Scholar
  38. Roehrig NE, Capinera JL (1983) Behavioral and developmental responses of range caterpillar larvae, Hemileuca oliviae, to condensed tannin. J Ins Physiol 29:901–906Google Scholar
  39. Scriber JM, Feeny P (1979) Growth of herbivorous caterpillars in relation to feeding specialisation and to the growth form of their food plants. Ecology 60:829–850Google Scholar
  40. Swain T, Hillis WE (1959) The quantitative analysis of phenolic constituents. J Sci Fd Ag 10:63–68Google Scholar
  41. Todd GW, Getahun A, Cress DC (1971) Resistance in barley to the greenbug Schizaphis granimum 1. Toxicity of phenolic and flavanoid compounds. Ann Ent Soc Am 64:718–722Google Scholar
  42. West C (1985) Factors underlying the late seasonal appearance of the lepidopterous leaf-mining guild on oak. Ecol Ent 10:111–120Google Scholar
  43. Wink M (1983) Wounding-induced increase in quinolizidine alkaloid accumulation in lupin leaves. Z Naturforsch 38C:905–909Google Scholar
  44. Woodhead S (1981) Environmental and biotic factors affecting the phenolic content of different cultivars of Sorghum bicolor. J Chem Ecol 7:1035–1047Google Scholar
  45. Wratten SD, Edwards PJ, Dunn I (1984) Wound-induced changes in the palatability of Betula pubescens and Betula pendula. Oecologia (Berlin) 61:372–375Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. E. Hartley
    • 1
  • J. H. Lawton
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of YorkHeslington, YorkUK

Personalised recommendations