The influence of host plant diversity and food quality on larval survival of plant feeding heteropteran bugs


Manuela Di Giulio, Geobotanical Institute ETHZ, Gladbachstrasse 114, 8044 Zurich, Switzerland. E-mail:


Abstract. 1. In a laboratory experiment, the influence of host plant diversity and food quality, in terms of nitrogen content, on the larval survival of two oligophagous bug species (Heteroptera, Miridae: Leptopterna dolobrata L., Notostira erratica L.) was investigated. Both species are strictly phytophagous and capable of feeding on a wide range of grass species. Moreover, they typically change their host plants during ontogenesis; it has been suggested that this behaviour is a response to the changing protein content of the hosts.

2. To investigate the importance of host plant diversity for these insects, the development of insects reared on grass monocultures was compared with that on mixtures of four grass species. In addition, the host grasses were grown under two nitrogen regimes to test whether nitrogen content is the key factor determining host plant switching.

3. Both species had a significantly higher survival rate when feeding on several host plants but only L. dolobrata showed a significant response to food nitrogen content. Furthermore, there was no correlation between the nitrogen content of the host plants and the survival rate of N. erratica larvae.

4. The study suggests that at least some Stenodemini need a variety of host plants during larval development but that the level of host plant nitrogen is not the main factor responsible for the observed diversity effect.