Variable nursery pollinator importance and its effect on plant reproductive success

Academic Article


  • Nursery pollination, in which insects use as hosts the very plants they pollinate, ranges from obligate mutualism to parasitism. In the non-obligate interaction between Greya moths and the host Lithophragma sp., the relative density of nursery pollinators and copollinators, which do not use plant tissues for larval development, is a key determinant of the interaction's outcome. Silene (Caryophyllaceae) nursery pollination by Hadena moths (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), studied primarily in Europe, is considered antagonistic because copollinators comprise a substantial proportion of the pollinator community. However, there are few studies that ascertain the direction of the Silene-Hadena interaction by taking into account both pollinator service and seed predation. Here, we report a novel comprehensive evaluation of the direction of the interaction between North American Hadena ectypa on Silene stellata, by comparing the relative contributions of nursery and copollinators to S. stellata pollination and relate this to variation in fruit predation and reproductive success of S. stellata across multiple sites and years. Hadena ectypa pollinator importance (pollen deposited/visit/h) varied between years, resulting from variable visitation rate. Copollinator importance was higher than H. ectypa in 1 year and equivalent in another. In two of three sites, lowered H. ectypa activity was not correlated with a significant decrease in plant reproductive success, indicating a negative interaction. Although pollinator service by H. ectypa is substantial in this system, copollinators' service is at least as great, and when the cost of fruit predation is factored in, the net effect of the interaction is parasitism of host plants. © 2011 Springer-Verlag.
  • Published In

  • Oecologia  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Reynolds RJ; Kula AAR; Fenster CB; Dudash MR
  • Start Page

  • 439
  • End Page

  • 448
  • Volume

  • 168
  • Issue

  • 2