, Volume 130, Issue 4, pp 563-569

Indirect interaction between a fungal plant pathogen and a herbivorous beetle of the weed Cirsium arvense

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Interactions between plants and their natural enemies are well studied, but investigations on the indirect interactions between plant enemies that simultaneously exploit a host plant are rare. Yet these plant-mediated interactions are important because they may affect not only the impact of plant antagonists on plant survival but may also influence the performance of the other plant exploiters. This study focused on the indirect effects of a systemic infection of creeping thistle, [irsium arvense (L.) Scop., with the necrotrophic fungus Phoma destructiva (Plowr.) on the phytophagous leaf beetle Cassida rubiginosa Müller, by examining egg deposition, food plant choice, and larval and pupal performance of the beetle. Thus, the results give a broader view than most other studies of plant-mediated effects of a pathogen on a phytophagous insect. Since both the beetle and the fungus are considered as agents for the biological control of C. arvense, the results are also of interest for applied ecology. Potted plants of C. arvense were inoculated with a conidiospore suspension of P. destructiva to cause a systemic infection of the plants. In a cage experiment, ovipositing females of C. rubiginosa showed a significant preference for healthy thistles. In dual-choice tests, adults of C. rubiginosa preferred leaf discs from healthy thistles over those from Phoma-infected thistles. The beetles also consumed significantly more leaf tissue from healthy than from infected plants. Development time from freshly hatched larvae until pupation was significantly longer for larvae fed on infected leaves. The weight of last-instar larvae and pupae was lower, and larval and pupal mortality was higher when larvae had been fed with infected compared to healthy leaves. Thus, the combined use of both potential biological control agents may be of lowered efficiency because (1) C. rubiginosa avoided infected thistles for both egg deposition and adult feeding and (2) Phoma infection negatively affected larval development and increased larval and pupal mortality of the beetle.

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