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Community structure and abundance of insects in response to early‐season aphid infestation in wild cabbage populations

Research paper by YEHUA LI, JELTJE M. STAM, ERIK H. POELMAN, MARCEL DICKE, RIETA GOLS

Indexed on: 26 Apr '16Published on: 25 Apr '16Published in: Ecological Entomology



Abstract

1. Changes in the arthropod community structure can be attributed to differences in constitutively expressed plant traits or those that change depending on environmental conditions such as herbivory. Early‐season herbivory may have community‐wide effects on successive insect colonisation of host plants and the identity of the initially inducing insect may determine the direction and strength of the effects on the dynamics and composition of the associated insect community.2. Previous studies have addressed the effect of early infestation with a chewing herbivore. In the present study, the effect of early infestation was investigated with a phloem‐feeding aphid [Brevicoryne brassicae L. (Hemiptera, Aphididae)] on the insect community associated with three wild cabbage (Brassica oleracea L.) populations, which are known to differ in defence chemistry, throughout the season in field experiments.3. Aphid infestation had asymmetric effects on the associated insect community and only influenced the abundance of the natural enemies of aphids, but not that of chewing herbivores and their natural enemies. The effect size of aphid infestation further depended on the cabbage population.4. Aphid feeding has been previously reported to promote host‐plant quality for chewing herbivores, which has been attributed to antagonism between the two major defence signalling pathways controlled by the hormones salicylic acid (SA) and jasmonic acid (JA), respectively. Our results show no effects of early infestation by aphids on chewing herbivores, suggesting the absence of long‐term JA–SA antagonism.5. Investigating the effects of the identity of an early‐season coloniser and genotypic variation among plant populations on insect community dynamics are important in understanding insect–plant community ecology.