Eur. J. Entomol. 105 (2): 233-240, 2008 | DOI: 10.14411/eje.2008.033

Plant architecture and vegetation structure: Two ways for insect herbivores to escape parasitism

Elisabeth OBERMAIER*,1, Annette HEISSWOLF2, Hans Joachim POETHKE2, Barbara RANDLKOFER3, Torsten MEINERS3
1 Department of Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology, University of Würzburg, Biozentrum, Am Hubland, D-97074 Würzburg, Germany; e-mail: o.maier@biozentrum.uni-wuerzburg.de
2 Field Station Fabrikschleichach, University of Würzburg, Germany
3 Department of Applied Zoology/Animal Ecology, Free University of Berlin, Germany

Interactions between herbivorous insects and their parasitoids occur in highly structured and complex environments. Habitat structure can be an important factor affecting ecological interactions between different trophic levels. In this study the influence of plant architecture and surrounding vegetation structure on the interaction between the tansy leaf beetle, Galeruca tanaceti L. (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) and its egg parasitoid, Oomyzus galerucivorus Hedqvist (Hymenoptera: Eulophidae), was investigated at two small spatial scales in the field. It was expected that high and structurally complex plants or vegetation represent an enemy free space for the herbivore by making host search more difficult for the parasitoid. At the scale of individual plants, plant height had a positive influence on herbivore oviposition and egg clutch height a negative impact on parasitism. In addition, the beetle was more likely to oviposit on simple plants than on plants with branches, while the parasitoid remained unaffected by the degree of branching. At the microhabitat scale (r = 0.1 m around an oviposition site), both height and density of the vegetation affected beetle oviposition positively and egg parasitism negatively. The herbivore and its parasitoid, therefore, were influenced in opposite ways by habitat structure at both spatial scales investigated, suggesting the existence of an enemy free space for the herbivores' eggs on tall plants and in tall and complex vegetation. This study indicates that structural components of the environment are important for interactions among organisms of different trophic levels.

Keywords: Chrysomelidae, enemy free space, Galeruca tanaceti, environmental heterogeneity, oviposition site, parasitism, plant architecture, Oomyzus galerucivorus, structural complexity, vegetation structure

Received: August 22, 2007; Accepted: November 12, 2007; Published: May 15, 2008

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