• Insect;
  • arbuscular mycorrhiza;
  • specialism;
  • multitrophic interactions

The majority of phytophagous insects eat very few plant species, yet the ecological and evolutionary forces that have driven such specialism are not entirely understood. The hypothesis that arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi can determine phytophagous insect specialism, through differential effects on insect growth, was tested using examples from the British flora. In the UK, plant families and species in the family Lamiaceae that are strongly mycorrhizal have higher proportions of specialist insects feeding on them than those that are weakly mycorrhizal. We suggest that AM fungi can affect the composition of insect assemblages on plants and are a hitherto unconsidered factor in the evolution of insect specialism.