Aim Species richness of insect herbivores feeding on exotic plants increases with abundance as well as range size of the host in the area of introduction. The formation of these herbivore assemblages requires a certain amount of time, and the richness of insect faunas should also increase with the length of time an exotic plant has been present in the introduced range.
Location Central Europe.
Methods We analysed the variation in species richness of leaf-chewing Lepidoptera larvae and sap-sucking Auchenorrhyncha (Hemiptera) associated with 103 exotic woody plant species in Germany in relation to time since introduction, range size, growth form (trees versus shrubs), biogeographical origin (distance from Central Europe) and taxonomic isolation of the host plant (presence or absence of a native congener in the introduced area).
Results Using simple correlation analyses we found for Lepidoptera and Auchenorrhyncha that species richness increased with time since introduction of the host plant. For the Lepidoptera the increase of species richness with time since introduction remained significant even after removing the effects of all other independent variables.
Main conclusions Our results provide some evidence that assemblages of insects on exotic plants do not reach saturation within a time scale of few hundred years. This contrasts with previous findings for crop plants.