Flight-Fecundity Trade-offs: A Possible Mechanistic Link in Plant–Herbivore–Pollinator Systems

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Plant–herbivore and plant–pollinator interactions are both well-studied, but largely independent of each other. It has become increasingly recognized, however, that pollination and herbivory interact extensively in nature, with consequences for plant fitness. Here, we explore the idea that trade-offs in investment in insect flight and reproduction may be a mechanistic link between pollination and herbivory. We first provide a general background on trade-offs between flight and fecundity in insects. We then focus on Lepidoptera; larvae are generally herbivores while most adults are pollinators, making them ideal to study these links. Increased allocation of resources to flight, we argue, potentially increases a Lepidopteran insect pollinator’s efficiency, resulting in higher plant fitness. In contrast, allocation of resources to reproduction in the same insect species reduces plant fitness, because it leads to an increase in herbivore population size. We examine the sequence of resource pools available to herbivorous Lepidopteran larvae (maternally provided nutrients to the eggs, as well as leaf tissue), and to adults (nectar and nuptial gifts provided by the males to the females), which potentially are pollinators. Last, we discuss how subsequent acquisition and allocation of resources from these pools may alter flight–fecundity trade-offs, with concomitant effects both on pollinator performance and the performance of larval herbivores in the next generation. Allocation decisions at different times during ontogeny translate into costs of herbivory and/or benefits of pollination for plants, mechanistically linking herbivory and pollination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number843506
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
StatePublished - Apr 25 2022


  • Lepidoptera
  • herbivory
  • nectar
  • nuptial gift
  • nutrient tradeoffs
  • pollination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Flight-Fecundity Trade-offs: A Possible Mechanistic Link in Plant–Herbivore–Pollinator Systems'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this