We investigated the importance of specialized behaviors in the use of enemy-free space by comparing the host-use behavior of two closely related moths, Heliothis subflexa Guenee and H. virescens Fabricius. Heliothis subflexa is a specialist on plants in the genus Physalis, whereas H. virescens is an extreme generalist, feeding on plants in at least 14 families. Heliothis subflexa uses the inflated calyx surrounding Physalis fruits as enemy-free space, and field rates of parasitism for H. subflexa on Physalis are much lower than for H. virescens on tobacco and cotton, common hosts found in the same habitat as Physalis. If Physalis' architecture were solely responsible for H. subflexa's low rates of parasitism on Physalis, we predicted that H. virescens larvae experimentally induced to feed on Physalis would experience parasitism rates similar to those of H. subflexa. We found, however, that specialized host-use and host-acceptance behaviors are integral to the use of enemy-free space on Physalis and strongly augment the effects of the structural refuge. In laboratory assays, we found considerable differences between the larval behavior of the specialist, H. subflexa, and the generalist, H. virescens, and these contributed to H. subflexa's superior use of enemy-free space on Physalis. We tested the importance of these behavioral differences in the field by comparing parasitism of H. virescens on Physalis, H. virescens on tobacco, and H. subflexa on Physalis by Cardiochiles nigriceps Vierick, a specialist braconid parasitoid. For H. virescens, a threefold decrease in parasitism occurred when feeding on Physalis (mean parasitism ± SEM = 13 ± 4%) rather than tobacco (43 ± 4%), a difference we attribute to the structural refuge provided by Physalis. However, parasitism of H. virescens on Physalis was more than ten times as great as that of H. subflexa on Physalis (1 ± 4%), supporting the hypothesis that specialized behaviors have a substantial impact on use of Physalis as enemy-free space. Behavioral adaptations may be central to the use of enemy-free space by phytophagous insects and may act as an important selective force in the evolution of dietary specialization.
Corresponding Editor: C. Boggs