General information

Course type AMUPIE
Module title Insect-plant interactions: from molecules to communities
Language English
Module lecturer prof. UAM dr hab. Freerk Molleman
Lecturer's email
Lecturer position assocate professor
Faculty Faculty of Biology
Semester 2023/2024 (winter)
Duration 45


Theoretical part: Weekly block of 2 hours consisting of lecture plus literature discussion (30 hours)

Week 1: Insect nutrition and life history strategies, symbionts 

Week 2: Physical plant defences against insect herbivores        

Week 3: Chemical plant defences against insect herbivores      

Week 4: Tri-trophic interactions, communication

Week 5: Insect adaptations to plant defences   

Week 6: Mutualistic interactions, pollination     

Week 7: Competition among insect herbivores 

Week 8: Specialization vs generalization           

Week 9: Insect behavior, oviposition, larval feeding      

Week 10: Hostplant relationships and insect diversification

Week 11: Causes of tropical insect diversity     

Week 12: Plants as islands for herbivorous insects

Week 13: Effects of vegetation diversity on insect life histories.

Week 14: Effects of insects on plant diversity

Week 15: Invasive plants


Practical part: Weekly block of three yours of fieldwork or laboratory experimentation depending on whether and availability of insects and plants


Week 1: Observe various feeding guilds, observe female butterflies in the field, capturing female butterflies and moths.

Week 2: Determine oviposition latency in moths, perform oviposition preference experiments

Week 3: Set-up moth caterpillar plant acceptance experiment, observe caterpillar feeding behavior.

Week 4: Compare mine abundance among leaves within plants and among individual plants within one plant species such as thistles.

Week 5: Use dummy caterpillars to determine effects of leaf damage on predation rate

Module aim (aims)

Understanding of insect-plant interactions from chemical ecology to community biology

Develop skills in rapid extraction of information from scientific articles

Develop presentation skills

Develop experimental design

Pre-requisites in terms of knowledge, skills and social competences (where relevant)



We will use insect-plant interactions as models to explore concepts in ecology and evolution. We will cover the range from chemical ecology to community biology, using lectures and primary literature. The course will give a broad perspective on insect-plant interactions, as well as improve skills is rapid reading of primary literature, experimental design, and presenting.

Reading list