The ecological theory on host plant choice by herbivores suggests that mothers should choose plants that will maximize their offspring's success. In annual host plants, physiology (and therefore host suitability) is sometimes influenced by maturity and growth stage, which may influence female choice. Potato plants were grown under greenhouse conditions and used in choice and no-choice bioassays to determine the effect of plant maturity and variety on oviposition and number of stylet sheaths (which approximate stylet insertions) by tomato/potato psyllids. No-choice bioassays suggested that maturity (time since planting) did not influence oviposition behavior, but oviposition varied significantly among potato plant varieties. There was a significant effect of both maturity and variety on the number of stylet sheaths, which peak toward the middle of the growing season. We also examined tomato/potato psyllid responses to plants grown in a commercial field and again found no effect on oviposition but differences in stylet sheaths. The results suggest that differential susceptibility to zebra chip disease may be associated with unequal feeding rates. Future studies should examine whether the maturity of plants influences larval fitness. Finally, potato variety has an influence on both oviposition and “probing,” and has implications for management strategies and the development of resistant potato varieties.
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