1. We describe a generalized mainland-island metapopulation model which includes migration among the island populations. We test model predictions with quantitative data on more than 200 species of moths in two contrasting networks of small islands. The data include a direct measure of migration rate, based on trapping of moths on rocky skerries with no local populations of the vast majority of species.
2. We predicted that moths which are strong fliers but uncommon on the islands have a higher incidence on scattered islands than on islands in a group, because the latter ‘compete’ for immigrants from the mainland. In contrast, we predicted that weakly flying species with potentially large local populations on the islands occur more frequently on islands in a group due to enhanced colonization rate.
3. Both predicted patterns were observed. Island occupancy increased significantly with the number of individuals caught on the rocky skerries, which is our measure of migration rate from the mainland, supporting the basic assumption that the species occur on the islands in a balance between colonizations and extinctions.
4. These results demonstrate that the moth metapopulations on islands represent a mixture of Levins’s and mainland-island metapopulations, and that the mixture is different for different species in the same landscape.