1. Aphid natural enemies include not only predators and parasitoids but also pathogens, of which fungi are the most studied for biological control. While wing formation in aphids is induced by abiotic conditions, it is also affected by biotic interactions with their arthropod natural enemies. Wing induction via interactions with arthropod natural enemies is mediated by the increase in their physical contact when alarmed (pseudo-crowding). Pathogenic fungi do not trigger this alarm behaviour in aphids and, therefore, no pseudo-crowding occurs.
2. We hypothesise that, while pathogenic fungi will stimulate maternally induced wing formation, the mechanism is different and is influenced by pathogen specificity. We tested this hypothesis using two entomopathogenic fungi, Pandora neoaphidis and Beauveria bassiana, an aphid specialist and a generalist respectively, on the pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum Harris.
3. We first demonstrate that pea aphids infected with either pathogen and maintained in groups on broad bean plants produced a higher proportion of winged morphs than uninfected control aphids. We then show that, when maintained in isolation, aphids infected with either pathogen also produced higher proportions of winged offspring than control aphids. There was no difference between P. neoaphidis and B. bassiana in their effects on wing induction in either experiment.
4. Unlike the effect of predators and parasitoids on pea aphid wing induction, the effect of pathogens is independent of physical contact with other aphids, suggesting that physiological cues induce wing formation in infected aphids. It is possible that aphids benefit from wing induction by escaping infected patches whilst pathogens may benefit through dispersion. Possible mechanisms of wing induction are discussed.