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Keywords:

  • alien;
  • apparent competition;
  • herbivory;
  • insect–plant interaction;
  • Senecio;
  • weed

Abstract  The enemy release hypothesis predicts that native herbivores will either prefer or cause more damage to native than introduced plant species. We tested this using preference and performance experiments in the laboratory and surveys of leaf damage caused by the magpie moth Nyctemera amica on a co-occuring native and introduced species of fireweed (Senecio) in eastern Australia. In the laboratory, ovipositing females and feeding larvae preferred the native S. pinnatifolius over the introduced S. madagascariensis. Larvae performed equally well on foliage of S. pinnatifolius and S. madagascariensis: pupal weights did not differ between insects reared on the two species, but growth rates were significantly faster on S. pinnatifolius. In the field, foliage damage was significantly greater on native S. pinnatifolius than introduced S. madagascariensis. These results support the enemy release hypothesis, and suggest that the failure of native consumers to switch to introduced species contributes to their invasive success. Both plant species experienced reduced, rather than increased, levels of herbivory when growing in mixed populations, as opposed to pure stands in the field; thus, there was no evidence that apparent competition occurred.