Indexed on: 06 Jan '12Published on: 06 Jan '12Published in: Oecologia
A plant's own characteristics, but also those of its neighbors, might have an impact on its probability of being colonized by herbivorous insects. A plant might be less colonized and experience associational resistance when it grows near repellent neighbors. In contrast, it might be more colonized and experience associational susceptibility near attractive neighbors. To date, mechanisms that drive associational defense are not really understood. In order to gain insights into the occurrence of associational resistance versus associational susceptibility under field conditions, we conducted an experiment to determine the influence of neighboring plants on the colonization of a focal plant by aphids. The focal plant was always Brassica oleracea. The neighbors were B. oleracea (control), B. napus, B. nigra, or Solanum lycopersicum, which represent contrasting levels of physical and chemical defenses. The focal plant, B. oleracea, was more colonized by the specialist aphid Brevicoryne brassicae, and experienced associational susceptibility when it was surrounded by B. nigra or B. napus. In contrast, B. oleracea was less colonized by the generalist aphid Myzus persicae, and experienced associational resistance when it was surrounded by S. lycopersicum, B. nigra or B. napus. Neighboring plants had no significant impact on host plant choice by the generalist aphid Macrosiphum euphorbiae. In conclusion, attraction or repulsion of the specialist aphid B. brassicae and the generalist aphid M. persicae by B. nigra, B. napus, and S. lycopersicum resulted in associational susceptibility or associational resistance for B. oleracea.