Egg distribution in herbivorous beetles can be affected by bottom-up (host plant), and by top-down factors (parasitoids and predators), as well as by other habitat parameters. The importance of bottom-up and top-down effects may change with spatial scale.
In this study, we investigated the influence of host plant factors and habitat structure on egg distribution in the leaf beetle Cassida canaliculata Laich. (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae), a monophagous herbivore on Salvia pratensis L. (Lamiales: Lamiaceae), on four spatial scales: individual host plant, microhabitat, macrohabitat, and landscape. At the individual host plant scale we studied the correlation between egg clutch incidence and plant size and quality. On all other scales we analyzed the relationship between the egg clutch incidence of C. canaliculata and host plant percentage cover, host plant density, and the surrounding vegetation structure. Vegetation structure was examined as herbivores might escape egg parasitism by depositing their eggs on sites with vegetation factors unfavorable for host searching parasitoids.
The probability that egg clutches of C. canaliculata were present increased with an increasing size, percentage cover, and density of the host plant on three of the four spatial scales: individual host plant, microhabitat, and macrohabitat. There was no correlation between vegetation structure and egg clutch occurrence or parasitism on any spatial scale. A high percentage of egg clutches (38–56%) was parasitized by Foersterella reptans Nees (Hymenoptera: Tetracampidae), the only egg parasitoid, but there was no relationship between egg parasitism and the spatial distribution of egg clutches of C. canaliculata on any of the spatial scales investigated. However, we also discuss results from a further study, which revealed top-down effects on the larval stage.