Phytophagous insects and their natural enemies make up one of the largest and most diverse groups of organisms on earth. Ecological processes, in particular negative indirect effects mediated by shared natural enemies (apparent competition), may be important in structuring phytophagous insect communities. The potential for indirect interactions can be assessed by analyzing the trophic structure of insect communities, and we claim that quantitative food webs are particularly well suited for this task. We review the experimental evidence for both short-term and long-term apparent competition in phytophagous insect communities and discuss the possible interactions between apparent competition and intraguild predation or shared mutualists. There is increasing evidence for the importance of trait-mediated as well as density-mediated indirect effects. We conclude that there is a need for large-scale experiments manipulating communities in their entirety and a greater integration of community and chemical ecology.
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