Research on how morphology, behavior, and life histories of insects determine their susceptibility to parasitism has primarily focused on the traits of single host species. Very little research has been conducted attempting to determine if similarities or differences in the traits of co-occurring species, on a single plant or in a habitat, influence levels of parasitism imposed on any member of an assemblage. In this study, we use categorical and regression tree analyses to determine which traits of the larvae of macrolepidopteran species are associated with highest levels of parasitism. Of a variety of morphological, behavioral, and ecological traits of 72 species (representing eight families), caterpillar color was the trait that had the greatest influence on susceptibility to parasitism. The highest levels of parasitism were associated primarily with green larvae. These results suggest that the herbivore species composition and, specifically, the traits possessed by the species may influence community or assemblagewide patterns of parasitism. That is, sharing of traits that enhance host finding and successful parasitism may result in associational susceptibility to parasitism, whereas co-occurrence with species that differ morphologically, behaviorally, or ecologically may reduce the likelihood of parasitism and thus result in associational resistance. The concepts of associational resistance and susceptibility have historically been restricted to plant–plant interactions. The extension of these concepts to herbivores is novel. If found to be widespread, these interactions can have significant impacts on our expectations of the effectiveness of biological control agents.
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