1. Plant stress and association with mycorrhizal fungi have been shown to significantly influence plant quality, yet their roles in influencing plant–insect interactions remain unclear. Even less is known about how these factors might interact with or be modified by within-trophic level interactions.
2. In the present study, the results of a factorial field experiment are reported in which the effects of within-trophic-level interactions, plant stress, and mycorrhizae on three herbivores of Baccharis halimifolia were examined.
3. Plant stress was increased by adding salt to the soil, and availability of mycorrhizal fungi was increased by inoculating plant roots. These treatments were applied to plants with either low or high densities of a competitor (Trirhabda baccharidis).
4. For the two leaf miners, Amauromyza maculosa and Liriomyza trifolii, increased soil salinity and high densities of the competitor Trirhabdabaccharidis resulted in significant decreases in density. Neither of these treatments affected the gall maker Neolasioptera lathami.
5. Mycorrhizal fungi increased the densities of all three herbivores, possibly by increasing foliar nitrogen levels. For the two leaf miners, there was also evidence that mycorrhizae ameliorated the negative effects of salt stress. There was also evidence that high levels of competition dampened the positive effects of mycorrhizae on the two leaf miners.