• Climate change;
  • drought;
  • feeding guild;
  • herbivory;
  • leaf-miner;
  • plant–insect interaction;
  • plant stress;
  • plant vigour

Abstract 1. The impact of climate change on phytophages is difficult to predict, due in part to variation between species in their responses to factors such as drought stress. Here, the hypothesis that several species within the leaf-mining feeding guild will respond in a consistent way to changes in rainfall patterns is tested, using a manipulative field experiment.

2. Summer drought, enhanced summer rainfall, and control treatments were imposed on a calcareous grassland community, and the responses of five leaf-mining species were assessed.

3. One leaf-mining species was more abundant under enhanced rainfall, one was more abundant under drought, and the other three species showed no consistent response to the rainfall treatments. Higher parasitism levels under drought may partly explain the response of one species (Stephensia brunnichella) to the treatments.

4. These results show that generalisations relating to drought stress impacts cannot be drawn at the feeding guild level for leaf-mining insects.