Rank, N. E. 1994. Host plant effects on larval survival in a salicin-using leaf beetle Chrysomela aeneicollis Schaeffer (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). Oecologia 97:342-353.
Several species of willow leaf beetles use host-plant salicin to produce a defensive secretion that consists of salicylaldehyde. Generalist arthropod predators such as ants, ladybird beetles, and spiders are repelled by this secretion. The beetle larvae produce very little secretion when they feed on willows that lack salicylates, and salicin-using beetles prefer salicylate-rich willows over salicylate-poor ones. This preference may exist because the larvae are better defended against natural enemies on salicylate-rich willows. If this is true, the larvae should survive longer on those willows in nature. However, this prediction has not been tested. In the present study, I determined the larval growth and survival of Chrysomela aeneicollis (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) on five willow species (Salix boothi, S. drummondiana, S. geyeriana, S. lutea, and S. orestera). These species differed in their salicylate chemistries and in leaf toughness but not in water content. The water content varied among the individual plants. Larval growth of C. aeneicollis did not differ among the five species in the laboratory, but it varied among the individual plants and it was related to the water content. In the field, C. aeneicollis larvae developed equally rapidly on the salicylate-poor S. lutea as on the salicylate-rich S. orestera. Larval survival was greater on S. orestera than on S. lutea in one year (1986), but there was no difference between them in the three succeeding years. In another survivorship experiment, larval survival was low on the medium-salicylate S. geyeriana, but high on the salicylate-poor S. boothi and on S. orestera. Larval survival in the field was related to the larval growth and water content that had been previously measured in the laboratory. These results showed that the predicted relationship between the host plant chemistry and larval survival did not usually exist for C. aeneicollis. One possible reason for this was that the most important natural enemies were specialist predators that were unaffected by the host-derived defensive secretion. One specialist predator, Symmorphus cristatus (Hymenoptera: Eumenidae), probably caused much of the mortality observed in this study. I discuss the importance of other specialist predators to salicin-using leaf beetles.
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