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Interaction of specialist root and shoot herbivores of Alliaria petiolata and their impact on plant performance and reproduction


Esther Gerber, CABI Bioscience Centre Switzerland, Rue des Grillons 1, CH-2800 Delémont, Switzerland, E-mail:


Abstract 1. This study explored interactions of two spatially and temporally separated weevils and their impact on Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard) survival, growth, and reproduction at different herbivore densities.

2. The root-mining weevil Ceutorhynchus scrobicollis attacks A. petiolata rosettes from October to April, and larvae complete development in May. The shoot-mining weevil Ceutorhynchus alliariae attacks bolting plants in April/May with larvae completing development in June–July. Priority effects were expected, with early attack of C. scrobicollis affecting the later attacking C. alliariae, mediated through changes in plant growth or chemistry.

3. Attack by C. scrobicollis significantly increased plant mortality and changed plant architecture, while C. alliariae only significantly reduced plant height. Attack by C. scrobicollis also increased nitrogen content of stems.

4. Root feeding by C. scrobicollis affected the feeding niche of C. alliariae, but increased stem nitrogen content did not result in increased stem miner survival. While reduced height and stem diameters as a result of C. scrobicollis attack reduced C. alliariae attack at the stem level, attack at plant level and recruitment was unaffected.

5. Weevil density had no effect on plant performance, most likely due to strong intraspecific competition, and there were no synergistic effects between the two herbivores.

6. Overall, attack by C. scrobicollis was more detrimental to A. petiolata growth, seed output, and survival than attack by C. alliariae. Consequently, C. scrobicollis has been prioritised as a potential biocontrol agent for control of A. petiolata in North America.

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