Plants use a diverse mix of defenses against herbivores, including multiple secondary metabolites, which often affect herbivores synergistically. Chemical defenses also can affect natural enemies of herbivores via limiting herbivore populations or by affecting herbivore resistance to parasitoids. In this study, we performed feeding experiments to examine the synergistic effects of imides and amides (hereafter "amides") from Piper cenocladum and P. imperiale on specialist (Eois nympha, Geometridae) and generalist (Spodoptera frugiperda, Noctuidae) lepidopteran larvae. Each Piper species has three unique amides, and in each experiment, larvae were fed diets containing different concentrations of single amides or combinations of the three. The amides from P. imperiale had negative synergistic effects on generalist survival and specialist pupal mass, but had no effect on specialist survival. Piper cenocladum amides also acted synergistically to increase mortality caused by parasitoids, and the direct negative effects of mixtures on parasitoid resistance and pupal mass were stronger than indirect effects via changes in growth rate and approximate digestibility. Our results are consistent with plant defense theory that predicts different effects of plant chemistry on generalist versus adapted specialist herbivores. The toxicity of Piper amide mixtures to generalist herbivores are standard bottom-up effects, while specialists experienced the top-down mediated effect of mixtures causing reduced parasitoid resistance and associated decreases in pupal mass.
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