In multivoltine insects that oviposit and develop on short-lived plants, different herbivore generations across a growing season often exploit different plant species. Here, we compare the development time, pupal mass, and survival of two closely related oligophagous herbivore species on two species of brassicaceous plants that grow in different habitats and which exhibit little overlap in temporal growth phenology. In central Europe, the green-veined white butterfly, Pieris napi L., is bivoltine, whereas the small cabbage white butterfly, Pieris rapae L., has two to three generations a year. Moreover, P. napi is primarily found in moist, open (e.g., meadow), and forest habitats, whereas P. rapae prefers drier, open habitats. Both butterflies were reared on Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), which is shade-tolerant and grows early in spring in forest undergrowth, and Black mustard (Brassica nigra), which prefers open disturbed habitats and is most common in summer. Both host plant species differ in other traits such as secondary chemistry. We hypothesized that, owing to habitat preference, P. napi would develop equally well on both plants but that P. rapae would perform better on B. nigra. The results provide partial support for this hypothesis, as both herbivores performed equally well on A. petiolata and B. nigra. However, there were differences in these parameters that were species-specific: on both plants P. rapae developed faster and had larger pupae than P. napi. Our results show that specialized herbivores can exploit different species of related plants that grow at different times of the season, enabling them to have multiple generations.
Environmental Entomology – Oxford University Press
Published: Jun 1, 2016
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