My work involves trying to understand the behaviour of generalist insect herbivores, using the Australian budworm moth Helicoverpa punctigera and its host plants as a study system.
I am testing the relationships between egg-laying, larval attraction and larval survival across a set of native primary and secondary host plants in this species, as well as investigating how these insects make the decision to lay (or not) on particular plant species. Are secondary hosts used only after a time threshold of searching for a primary host? Does laying on a primary host accelerate the rate of egg-laying? Or to these insects have the ability to compare and choose between alternatives? I am also comparing larval counts across plants of varying numbers of flowers in the field to test if this is important in the host-location behaviour of gravid females (or host-switching larvae).
I have recently completed a systematic review of works testing the preference-performance hypothesis across plant species - showing over 80% of insects do allocate eggs to plants where larval survival is highest so long as they share a native range with the host plants.
Previously I worked on flower thrips, Frankliniella schultzei, and showed that these tiny insects will fly even in rainy and windy conditions and inhabit bird-pollinated flowers despite their insect-repellent scent (presumably attracted by their ability to see red)