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Role of plant phenology in mediating interactions between two biological control agents for spotted knapweed

Bourchier, R.S., Crowe, M.L. (2011). Role of plant phenology in mediating interactions between two biological control agents for spotted knapweed, 58(3), 367-373. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocontrol.2011.05.003

Abstract

The role of spotted knapweed phenology on the attack rate of two seed-head insects Urophora affinis and Larinus minutus was assessed in a series of field studies at four study sites in south-eastern British Columbia, Canada. Slow or later developing knapweed plants had more seed heads that contained only single or multiple U. affinis whereas early or faster developing plants had more seed heads containing L. minutus alone or in combination with U. affinis. L. minutus did not distinguish between seed heads with or without U. affinis larvae when laying eggs. However, seed heads with multiple U. affinis present, produced fewer L. minutus adults than expected. The probability of single or multiple U. affinis galls being present increased with seed-head diameter but was not affected by seed-head height. Attack by L. minutus increased with seed-head diameters >5. mm and was lower at plant heights above 50. cm. These results demonstrate two mechanisms that enable U. affinis to successfully coexist with L. minutus: differences between the species in their response to the developmental phenology of knapweed heads, and increased survivorship of U. affinis in heads with multiple U. affinis galls through niche interference competition. These mechanisms provide a possible explanation for the persistence of U. affinis populations on spotted knapweed, in spite of high levels of within seed-head mortality that have been observed with increasing L. minutus populations. © 2011.

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