Host plant quality and fecundity in herbivorous insects

Annu Rev Entomol. 2002;47:817-44. doi: 10.1146/annurev.ento.47.091201.145300.


Host plant quality is a key determinant of the fecundity of herbivorous insects. Components of host plant quality (such as carbon, nitrogen, and defensive metabolites) directly affect potential and achieved herbivore fecundity. The responses of insect herbivores to changes in host plant quality vary within and between feeding guilds. Host plant quality also affects insect reproductive strategies: Egg size and quality, the allocation of resources to eggs, and the choice of oviposition sites may all be influenced by plant quality, as may egg or embryo resorption on poor-quality hosts. Many insect herbivores change the quality of their host plants, affecting both inter- and intraspecific interactions. Higher-trophic level interactions, such as the performance of predators and parasitoids, may also be affected by host plant quality. We conclude that host plant quality affects the fecundity of herbivorous insects at both the individual and the population scale.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fertility
  • Insecta / physiology*
  • Plant Physiological Phenomena*
  • Plants