Abstract. 1. Insects vary considerably between and within orders, and even within the same genus, in the degree to which the female's lifetime potential egg complement is mature when she emerges as an adult.
2. The ‘ovigeny index’ (OI) – the number of eggs females have ready to lay divided by the lifetime potential fecundity – quantifies variation in the degree of early life concentration of egg production, and also variation in initial reproductive effort.
3. Here, an integrated set of hypotheses is presented, based on a conceptual model of resource allocation and acquisition, concerning trade-offs at the interspecific level between initial investment in egg production (as measured by OI) and other life-history traits in holometabolous insects.
4. The evidence supporting each of these hypotheses is reviewed, and particular attention is paid to the Lepidoptera, as relevant life-history data are rapidly accumulating for this ecologically and economically important group.
5. There is evidence at the interspecific level supporting: (i) a link between OI and a trade-off between soma and non-soma in Trichoptera and Hymenoptera (the proportionate allocation to soma decreases with increasing OI); (ii) a negative correlation between OI and dependency on external nutrient inputs (via adult feeding) in Hymenoptera and in Lepidoptera; (iii) a negative correlation between OI and the degree of polyandry (and nuptial gift, i.e. spermatophore, use) in Lepidoptera; (iv) negative correlations between OI and resource re-allocation capabilities (egg and thoracic musculature resorption) in Hymenoptera and in Lepidoptera; (v) a negative correlation between lifespan and OI in Trichoptera, Hymenoptera, and Lepidoptera, indicating a cost of reproduction; (vi) a link between winglessness and an OI of one in Lepidoptera; (vii) a negative correlation between OI and the degree of female mobility in winged Lepidoptera; and (viii) a negative correlation between OI and larval diet breadth (as mediated by oviposition strategy) in Lepidoptera.