Plant Herbivore Interactions

Kari Bogner,  graduate student in the Department of Botany at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, is very interested in the conservation of native plants, plant physiology, and plant-herbivore interactions. Her graduate research, under the direction of Dr. Kasey Barton, revolves around the latter.  Specifically, she is studying the relationship between Vanessa tameamea caterpillars and their host plants in the Urticaceae (nettle) family.  Vanessa tameamea is better known in its adult form as the Kamehameha butterfly and is the state insect of Hawaii.  It is also one of only two endemic butterfly species in the Hawaiian Archipelago.  Kari is comparing its performance on native and non-native nettles along with its sister species, Vanessa atalanta, the Red Admiral butterfly.  The Red Admiral is a continental relative that maintains a permanent residence on the Big Island and has been found feeding on both native and non-native nettle plants.  From the botanical standpoint, she is also investigating how native and non-native nettles respond to and tolerate herbivore pressure by these closely related sister species.  Tantalus used to be home to a significant population of Kamehameha butterflies, but these insects have not been seen for several years, despite a huge increase in host plants at the Manoa Cliffs restoration site.  Kari hopes that her research, along with that of others, such as UH-Manoa entomologist Dr. William Haines, will shed light on this perplexing situation.

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