This study will investigate interactions between moths from the genus Hadena (the lychnis moth) and two divergent populations of the flowering plant species Silene latifolia (the white campion), an established research species that is also naturalized in the US. The S. latifolia populations vary extensively in floral, vegetative, and life-history traits, which are likely adaptations to dissimilar environments. The moths are nursery pollinators: adult moths pollinate, but the larvae parasitize fruit. Interactions including moth preferences, larval performance, and fruit damage will be examined in the natural European habitat. This research will suggest whether the balance between mutualism and parasitism varies among distinct environments with these nursery-pollinator and host-plant species.
This is an interdisciplinary research project that combines ecology, evolution, and behavior to investigate the divergence of intricate biological interactions between natural populations. This project will offer extensive training in pollinator biology and ecological/evolutionary field techniques for young graduate and undergraduate researchers. These results will also provide empirical evidence of regional variation in plant-pollinator interactions. Additionally, this work will suggest whether conservation efforts should consider habitat-specific differences in the management of other pollinator species.