Two major ecological factors determine the fitness of an insect herbivore: the ability to overcome plant resistance strategies (bottom-up effects) and the ability to avoid or resist attack by natural enemies such as predators and parasitoids (top-down effects). In response to differences in selection pressure, variation may exist in host-plant adaptation and immunity against parasitism among populations of an insect herbivore. We investigated the variation in larval performance of six different Plutella xylostella
populations originating from four continents when feeding on a native Dutch plant species, Brassica rapa.
One of the used populations has successfully switched its host plant, and is now adapted to pea. In addition, we determined the resistance to attack by the endoparasitoid Diadegma semiclausum
originating from the Netherlands (where it is also native) and measured parasitoid performance as a proxy for host resistance against parasitism. Pupal mortality, immature development times, and adult biomass of P. xylostella
differed significantly across populations when feeding on the same host plant species. In addition, parasitism success differed in terms of parasitoid adult emergence and their biomass, but not their development times. Variation among natural populations of insects should be considered more when studying interactions between plants and insects up the food chain.
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