Insecticides are a vital tool for manipulating insect herbivory, but limitations of the method can result in erroneous conclusions about the relationships among herbivores, plant population dynamics, plant community composition and ecosystem processes. In particular, direct effects of insecticide applications on plants or ecosystem processes, effects on non-target organisms and indirect effects via plant competition may cause ecologists to misjudge the importance of insect herbivores in ecosystems. A survey of published studies showed that most investigators considered some of the more likely artifacts, but few were thorough in testing for such artifacts. Data on insect damage and insect abundance are particularly useful for establishing a causative role for insect herbivore suppression in insecticide effects.

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