Senna mexicana chapmanii (Fabaceae: Caesalpinoideae), an attractive and threatened species native to pine rocklands of southern Florida, is consumed by folivorous caterpillars of Sulfur butterflies (Lepidoptera: Pieridae). Caterpillars may be deterred or eaten by predators, but also very important are parasitoids, both flies and wasps. This study investigated the effects of plant density on Sulfur caterpillar numbers and rates of parasitization.
Senna mexicana chapmanii plantations were established at agricultural and urban areas; both sites are adjacent to protected pine rockland areas. Sulfur butterfly immature stages were collected and reared to glean information regarding number of herbivores and rates of parasitization. Continuing this weekly monitoring protocol over the course of a year provided data to determine that higher plant density has an effect on levels of parisitization and is correlated with the number of herbivores. Elucidating these patterns has important implications understanding the factors that regulate interactions in this plant/herbivore/parasitoid system.