It's the first bites that count: Survival of first-instar monarchs on milkweeds.
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Mortality of first instars is generally very high, but variable, and is caused by many factors, including physical and chemical plant characters, weather and natural enemies. Here, a summary of detailed field-based studies of the early-stage survival of a specialist lepidopteran herbivore is presented. First-instar larvae of the monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, a milkweed specialist, generally grew faster and survived better on leaves when latex flow was reduced by partial severance of the leaf petiole. The outcome depended on milkweed species, and was related to the amount of latex produced, as well as other plant characters, such as leaf hairs, microclimate and concentration of secondary metabolites. Even for a so-called 'milkweed specialist', larval performance and survival appears to be related to the concentration of cardenolides produced by the plants (a potential chemical defence against herbivory). This case study of monarchs and milkweeds highlights the need for field-based experiments to assess the effect of plant characters on the usually poor survival of early instar phytophagous insects. Few similar studies concerning the performance and survival of first-instar, eucalypt-specific herbivores have been conducted, but this type of study is considered essential based on the findings obtained using D. plexippus.
© 2001 Blackwell Publishing. The definitive version is available at [www.blackwell-synergy.com.]
HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY