, Volume 156, Issue 3, pp 649-656

Response of host plants to periodical cicada oviposition damage

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Abstract

Insect oviposition on plants is widespread across many systems, but studies on the response of host plants to oviposition damage are lacking. Although patterns of oviposition vary spatially and temporally, ovipositing insects that exhibit outbreak characteristics may have strong effects on host plants during peak abundance. Periodical cicadas (Magicicada spp.), in particular, may reduce the performance of host plants when they synchronously emerge in massive numbers to mate and oviposit on host plants. Here we provide the first experimental manipulation of host plant use by periodical cicadas to evaluate the impact of cicada oviposition on plant performance across a diversity of host species within an ecologically relevant setting. Using a randomized block design, we established a plantation of three native and three exotic host plant species common to the successional forests in which cicadas occur. During the emergence of Brood X in 2004, we employed a highly effective cicada exclusion treatment by netting half of the host plants within each block. We assessed multiple measures of host plant performance, including overall plant growth and the growth and reproduction of individual branches, across three growing seasons. Despite our thorough assessment of potential host plant responses to oviposition damage, cicada oviposition did not generally inhibit host plant performance. Oviposition densities on unnetted host plants were comparable to levels documented in other studies, reinforcing the ecological relevance of our results, which indicate that cicada oviposition damage did not generally reduce the performance of native or exotic host plants.

Communicated by Katherine Gross.