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Can alien plants support generalist insect herbivores?

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Tallamy, Douglas W.; Ballard, Meg; D'Amico, Vincent

Year Published



Biological Invasions. 12: 2285-2292.


Simple rearing experiments were conducted to address two questions relevant to understanding how generalist lepidopteran herbivores interact with alien plants. Yellow-striped armyworm (Spodoptera ornithogalli), luna moth (Actias luna), bagworm (Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis) and white-marked tussock moth (Orgyia leucostigma) were reared from egg to 5th instar on excised foliage in the laboratory to determine the degree to which highly polyphagous lepidopteran herbivores are physiologically capable of surviving and developing on the suite of alien plants naturalized in the mid-Atlantic. Actias luna larvae from a single population were similarly reared on a representative of each of the 25 native plant genera recorded as hosts for this species to compare the diet breadth of a local population with that listed over the entire geographic range of the species. With few exceptions, all four generalists either quickly starved or grew at an unsustainably low rate on alien foliage.


alien plants; invasive species; biotic resistance; enemy release; generalist; specialist; insect herbivores


Tallamy, Douglas W.; Ballard, Meg; D'Amico, Vincent. 2010. Can alien plants support generalist insect herbivores? Biological Invasions. 12: 2285-2292.

Last updated on: November 23, 2010