Document Type


Date of Original Version



Biological Sciences


Competition plays an important role in structuring the community dynamics of phytophagous insects. As the number and impact of biological invasions increase, it has become increasingly important to determine whether competitive differences exist between native and exotic insects. We conducted a meta-analysis to test the hypothesis that native/exotic status affects the outcome of herbivore competition. Specifically, we used data from 160 published studies to assess plant-mediated competition in phytophagous insects. For each pair of competing herbivores, we determined the native range and coevolutionary history of each herbivore and host plant. Plant-mediated competition occurred frequently, but neither native nor exotic insects were consistently better competitors. Spatial separation reduced competition in native insects but showed little effect on exotics. Temporal separation negatively impacted native insects but did not affect competition in exotics. Insects that coevolved with their host plant were more affected by interspecific competition than herbivores that lacked a coevolutionary history. Insects that have not coevolved with their host plant may be at a competitive advantage if they overcome plant defenses. As native/exotic status does not consistently predict outcomes of competitive interactions, plant–insect coevolutionary history should be considered in studies of competition.