A perspective on the importance of within-tree variation in mortality risk for a leaf-mining insect
Within-tree variation in abiotic conditions can create a mosaic of fitness gradients for herbivorous insects. To explore these effects, we quantified the patterns of mortality of the solitary oak leafminer, Cameraria hamadryadella (Lepidoptera: Gracillariidae), which lives within leaves of white oak, Quercus alba. We found differential patterns of survival and larval feeding rate within the tree and in association with several abiotic factors: light levels, leaf nitrogen content, and canopy height. We suggest that the leaf scale microhabitat conditions are fundamental to plant-herbivore-enemy interactions because of the differential fitness effects on herbivores. Such effects would be missed by studies that average effects by whole plants. Our study population of C. hamadryadella is located within the Orland E. White State Arboretum of Virginia in Boyce, Virginia, USA.