, Volume 186, Issue 3, pp 711–718 | Cite as

Time-lagged intraspecific competition in temporally separated cohorts of a generalist insect

  • Elizabeth E. BarnesEmail author
  • Shannon M. Murphy
Plant-microbe-animal interactions - original research


Competition can have far-reaching consequences for insect fitness and dispersion. Time-lagged interspecific competition is known to negatively affect fitness, yet time-lagged intraspecific competition is rarely studied outside of outbreak conditions. We tested the impact of competition between larval cohorts of the western tent caterpillar (Malacosoma californicum) feeding on chokecherry (Prunus virginiana). We reared larvae on host plants that either had or did not have feeding damage from tent caterpillars the previous season to test the bottom-up fitness effects of intraspecific competition. We measured host-plant quality to test potential mechanisms for bottom-up effects and conducted field oviposition surveys to determine if female adult tent caterpillars avoided host plants with evidence of prior tent caterpillar presence. We found that time-lagged intraspecific competition impacted tent caterpillar fitness by reducing female pupal mass, which is a predictor of lifetime fitness. We found that plants that had been fed upon by tent caterpillars the previous season had leaves that were significantly tougher than plants that had not been fed upon by tent caterpillars, which may explain why female tent caterpillars suffered reduced fitness on these plants. Finally, we found that there were fewer tent caterpillar egg masses on plants that had tent caterpillars earlier in the season than plants without tent caterpillars, which suggests that adult females avoid these plants for oviposition. Our results confirm that intraspecific competition occurs among tent caterpillars and suggests that time-lagged intraspecific competition has been overlooked as an important component of insect fitness.


Plant-mediated competition Amensalism Lepidoptera Malacosoma californicum Prunus virginiana 



We thank Boulder and Jefferson Counties for funding and for their assistance on this project by issuing research permits. We also thank Robin Tinghitella, Julie Morris, Deane Bowers, the Murphy Lab Group, the University of Denver Organismal Biology Group, two anonymous reviewers, and the editor Jessica Forrest for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.

Author contribution statement

EEB and SMM designed the experiments. EEB preformed the experiments, analyzed the data, and wrote the first draft. EEB and SMM wrote and edited the manuscript. Both authors gave final approval on the manuscript.


  1. Abdala-Roberts L, Agrawal AA, Mooney KA (2012) Ant-aphid interactions on Asclepias syriaca are mediated by plant genotype and caterpillar damage. Oikos 121:1905–1913. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Awmack CS, Leather SR (2002) Host plant quality and fecundity in herbivorous insects. Annu Rev Entomol 47:817–844. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Barnes EE, Gosnell S, Hallagan C et al (2016) New host plant record for western tent caterpillar (Malacosoma californicum) and its performance on two common host plants. J Lepid Soc 70:277–282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bezemer TM, Wagenaar R, Van Dam NM, Wackers FL (2003) Interactions between above-and belowground insect herbivores as mediated by the plant defense system. Oikos 101:555–562CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bultman TL, Faeth SH (1986) Experimental evidence for intraspecific competition in a Lepidopteran leaf miner. Ecology 67:442–448CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cadogan BL, Scharbach RD (2005) Effects of a kaolin-based particle film on oviposition and feeding of gypsy moth (Lep., Lymantriidae) and forest tent caterpillar (Lep., Lasiocampidae) in the laboratory. J Appl Entomol 129:498–504. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cohen J (1988) Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, New JerseyGoogle Scholar
  8. Constant B, Grenier S, Febvay G, Bonnot G (1996) Host plant hardness in oviposition of Macrolophus caliginosus (Hemiptera: Miridae). J Econ Entomol 89:1446–1452CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cory JS, Myers JH (2004) Adaptation in an insect host-plant pathogen interaction. Ecol Lett 7:632–639. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Faeth SH (1986) Indirect interactions between temporally separated herbivores mediated by the host plant. Ecology 67:479–494CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Feeny P (1970) Seasonal changes in oak leaf tannins and nutrients as a cause of spring feeding by winter moth caterpillars. Ecology 51:565–581CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fitzgerald TD (1995) The Tent caterpillars. Cornell University Press, IthacaGoogle Scholar
  13. Ginzburg LR, Taneyhill DE (1994) Population cycles of forest Lepidoptera: a maternal effect hypothesis. J Anim Ecol 63:79–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gotoh T, Koyama M, Hagino Y, Doke K (2011) Effect of leaf toughness and temperature on development in the lilac pyralid, Palpita nigropunctalis (Bremer) (Lepidoptera: Crambidae). J Asia Pac Entomol 14:173–178. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Griffith DM, Poulson TL (1993) Mechanisms and consequences of intraspecific competition in a carabid cave beetle. Ecology 74:1373–1383CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gurevitch J, Morrow LL, Wallace A, Walsh JS (1992) A meta-analysis of competition in field experiments. Am Nautralist 140:539–572CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kaitaniemi P, Ruohomäki K, Ossipov V et al (1998) Delayed induced changes in the biochemical composition of host plant leaves during an insect outbreak. Oecologia 116:182–190. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Kaitaniemi P, Ruohomaki K, Tammaru T, Haukioja E (1999) Induced resistance of host tree foliage during and after a natural insect outbreak. J Anim Ecol 68:382–389. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kaplan I, Denno RF (2007) Interspecific interactions in phytophagous insects revisited: a quantitative assessment of competition theory. Ecol Lett 10:977–994. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Klomp H (1964) Intraspecific competition and the regulation of insect numbers. Annu Rev Entomol 17:17–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Loewy KJ, Flansburg AL, Grenis K et al (2013) Life history traits and rearing techniques for fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea Drury) in Colorado. J Lepid Soc 67:196–205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Long JD, Hamilton RS, Mitchell JL (2007) Asymmetric competition via induced resistance: specialist herbivores indirectly suppress generalist preference and populations. Ecology 88:1232–1240. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Majak W, McDiarmid RE, Hall JW (1981) The cyanide potential of saskatoon serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia) and chokecherry (Prunus virginiana). Can J Anim Sci 61:681–686CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. McCormick AC, Unsicker SB, Gershenzon J (2012) The specificity of herbivore-induced plant volatiles in attracting herbivore enemies. Trends Plant Sci 17:303–310. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Myers JH, Cory JS (2013) Population cycles in forest lepidoptera revisited. Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 44:565–592. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Nelson XJ, Jackson RR (2014) Timid spider uses odor and visual cues to actively select protected nesting sites near ants. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 68:773–780. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Nykanen H, Koricheva J, Nykänen H, Koricheva J (2004) Damage-induced changes in woody plants and their effects on insect herbivore performance: a meta-analysis. Oikos 104:247–268. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Powell JA, Opler PA (2009) Moths of Western North America. University of California Press, BerkeleyCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Prokopy RJ, Owens ED (1983) Visual detection of plants by herbivorous insects. Annu Rev Entomol 28:337–364. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Redman AM, Scriber JM (2000) Competition between the gypsy moth, Lymantria dispar, and the northern tiger swallowtail, Papilio canadensis: interactions mediated by host plant chemistry, pathogens, and parasitoids. Oecologia 125:218–228. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Reeves JL (2011) Vision should not be overlooked as an important sensory modality for finding host plants. Environ Entomol 40:855–863. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Renwick JAA (1989) Chemical ecology of oviposition in phytophagous insects. Experientia 45:223–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Schmid JM, Farrar PA, Ragenovich I (1981) Length of western tent caterpillar egg masses and diameter of their associated stems. Gt Basin Nat 41:465–466Google Scholar
  34. Schoonhoven LM, van Loon JJA, Dicke M (2005) Insect-plant biology, 2nd edn. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  35. Schultz JC, Baldwin IT (1982) Oak leaf quality declines in response to defoliation by gypsy moth larvae. Science 217:149–151CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Sponberg S, Dyhr JP, Hall RW, Daniel TL (2015) Luminance-dependent visual processing enables moth flight in low light. Science 348:1245–1248. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Sun G, Wang S, Ren Q et al (2015) Effects of time delay and space on herbivore dynamics: linking inducible defenses of plants to herbivore outbreak. Sci Rep 5:11246. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  38. Svanbäck R, Bolnick DI (2007) Intraspecific competition drives increased resource use diversity within a natural population. Proc R Soc B Biol Sci 274:839–844. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Thompson JN (1988) Evolutionary ecology of the relationship between oviposition preference and performance of offspring in phytophagous insects. Entomol Exp Appl 47:3–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Uesugi A, Morrell K, Poelman EH et al (2016) Modification of plant-induced responses by an insect ecosystem engineer influences the colonization behaviour of subsequent shelter-users. J Ecol 104:1096–1105. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Valdovinos FS, Moisset de Espanés P, Flores JD, Ramos-Jiliberto R (2013) Adaptive foraging allows the maintenance of biodiversity of pollination networks. Oikos 122:907–917. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. van Dam NM, Raaijmakers CE, van der Putten WH (2005) Root herbivory reduces growth and survival of the shoot feeding specialist Pieris rapae on Brassica nigra. Entomol Exp Appl 115:161–170. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. van Veen FJ, Morris RJ, Godfray HCJ (2006) Apparent competition, quantitative food webs, and the structure of phytophagous insect communities. Annu Rev Entomol 51:187–208. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Van Zandt PA, Agrawal AA (2004) Community-wide impacts of herbivore-induced plant responses in milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). Ecology 85:2616–2629CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Vidal M, Murphy SM (2018) Bottom-up versus top-down effects on terrestrial insect herbivores: a meta-analysis. Ecol Lett 21:138–150CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Wink M (2010) Introduction: biochemistry, physiology and ecological functions of secondary metabolites. Annu Plant Rev 40:1–19Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of DenverDenverUSA

Personalised recommendations