, Volume 123, Issue 2, pp 223-231

Interactive effects of host resistance and drought stress on the performance of a gall-making aphid living on Norway spruce

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Four full-sib families of Norway spruce (Picea abies), of which two were resistant to a galling aphid (Adelges abietis) and two were susceptible, were exposed to drought stress for 2 years. The primary aim was to test the hypothesis that the various life stages of the aphid differ in their response to environmentally induced changes in the host plant. The drought treatment had a significant negative effect on tree growth. This was reflected in gall size which responded in a similar way to the drought stress, thus supporting the plant vigour hypothesis. Drought affected the survival of aphid stem-mothers negatively in susceptible trees but positively in resistant trees. This result was matched by the response of an individual phenolic compound which, contrary to the total phenolic concentration, tended to increase in susceptible trees exposed to drought and decrease in similarly exposed resistant trees. Thus it is possible that this single, as yet unidentified, phenolic compound could be used as a marker of resistance. The performance of surviving stem-mothers, evaluated by measuring the diameter of the wax cover they produced (a correlate of fecundity), was not significantly affected by drought, but aphids on susceptible trees produced more wax than those on resistant trees. The change in gall density over time (analysed separately for each treatment and phenotype) correlated best with patterns of stem-mother survival. This indicates that stem-mother survival, which is closely linked to host plant quality and resistance, may play a significant role in the population dynamics of this aphid. However, drought-stress-induced changes in host plant quality affected survival, and hence gall density, less than the genetically determined level of resistance. The results also support the hypothesis that an insect may respond differently to environmentally induced changes in the host plant at different stages in its development.

Received: 15 September 1999 / Accepted: 3 December 1999