Native vs. non-native plants -- an insect's perspective

Purple crested slug caterpillar which fed on many native plants in the August sampling of this experiment. Beautiful but they sting!

Purple crested slug caterpillar which fed on many native plants in the August sampling of this experiment. Beautiful but they sting!

We studied the abundance and diversity of insect species supported by 56 native and non-native tree species in four large scale common gardens designed to simulate a suburban yard. While non-native plants consistently supported fewer and less diverse insect communities, the effect is most pronounced for non-native plants without a local native congener (eg. a relative in the same genus). 

Read more in our publications in Ecology Letters (beta diversity),  Diversity and Distributions (diversity and abundance of all herbivorous insect species) and Ecosphere (caterpillars- with a focus on specialists vs. generalists), or check out my collaborator Doug Tallamy's book.

Locations of common gardens across Northern DE and Southern PA.

Locations of common gardens across Northern DE and Southern PA.

Aerial shot of the common garden planted at the University of Delaware.

Aerial shot of the common garden planted at the University of Delaware.

Chris Phillips and Doug Tallamy vacuum-sampling insects from trees within this experiment

Chris Phillips and Doug Tallamy vacuum-sampling insects from trees within this experiment

Species accumulation curves for each treatment across common gardens standardized by leaf gram vacuum sampled. The largest reduction in herbivore richness on non-native plants was found in immature insects (e.g. caterpillars, leafhopper nymphs) on non-native plants that do not have a close native relative in the study area.

Species accumulation curves for each treatment across common gardens standardized by leaf gram vacuum sampled. The largest reduction in herbivore richness on non-native plants was found in immature insects (e.g. caterpillars, leafhopper nymphs) on non-native plants that do not have a close native relative in the study area.