• Chrysomelidae;
  • leaf nitrogen content;
  • plant vigour;
  • predator-exclusion;
  • preference–performance hypothesis;
  • tortoise beetle;
  • Salvia pratensis

Abstract.  1. Oviposition site selection is crucial for the reproductive success of herbivorous insects. According to the preference–performance hypothesis, females should oviposit on host plants that enhance the performance of their offspring. More specifically, the plant vigour hypothesis predicts that females should prefer large and vigorously growing host plants for oviposition and that larvae should perform best on these plants.

2. The present study examined whether females of the monophagous leaf beetle Cassida canaliculata Laich. (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) prefer to oviposit on large host plant individuals of the meadow clary and whether large host plants are of higher nutritional quality than small host plants. Subsequently, it was tested whether the female preference correlates with offspring performance and survival.

3. In the field, females preferred large host plant individuals for oviposition and host plant quality, i.e. leaf nitrogen content, was significantly higher in leaves of large than of small host plants.

4. In the laboratory, larval development time was shorter on leaves of large host plant individuals than on small host plant individuals, but this could not be shown in the field.

5. However, a predator-exclusion experiment in the field resulted in a higher survival of larvae on large host plants than on small host plants when all predators had free access to the plants. On caged host plants there was no difference in survival of larvae between plant size categories.

6. It is concluded that females of C. canaliculata select oviposition sites that enhance both performance and survival of their offspring, which meets the predictions of the plant vigour hypothesis.