Local monophagy and between-site diversity in host use in the European swallowtail butterfly, Papilio machaon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The majority of herbivorous insects are specialized in host use. Even among insects that use many hosts, local specialization is common with a single host plant often being used in any given locality. Here, we establish such a pattern for the European swallowtail butterfly, Papilio machaon. We sampled larvae on five different natural hosts at eight sites in Sweden, each locality showing local monophagy. We ask what is the underlying reason for this pattern, (1) local genetic adaptation with each population being genetically adapted to the local host, (2) Hopkins' host selection principle with adult females retaining a memory of the larval host and preferring to oviposit on that plant, or (3) the preference/performance hypothesis which posits that females should oviposit on the local plant(s) on which larval fitness is highest. Allozyme analysis supported a relatively low level of population structuring, and oviposition preference tests showed that females from all sites had similar preference rankings of the five host plants. Hence, there was no support for local genetic adaptation or Hopkins' host selection principle. Instead, the results are consistent with the preference/performance hypothesis with local monophagy probably being implemented by a preference ranking of plants in accordance with larval performance.


External organisations
  • Stockholm University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Evolutionary Biology


  • Adult preference, Allozymes, Host ranking, Larval performance, Local specialization, Oviposition
Original languageEnglish
Article numberblx115
Pages (from-to)179-190
Number of pages12
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jan 1
Publication categoryResearch