Plant phenology-mediated indirect effects: The gall midge opens the phenological window wider for a leaf beetle

Authors


Yasushi Miyamoto, Center for Ecological Research, Kyoto University, Otsu, Shiga, 520-2113 Japan. Email: yasu@ecology.kyoto-u.ac.jp

Abstract

We examined whether larvae of the gall midge Rabdophaga rigidae (Diptera: Cecidomyiidae) can modify the seasonal dynamics of the density of a leaf beetle, Plagiodera versicolora (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae), by modifying the leaf flushing phenology of its host willow species, Salix serissaefolia and Salix eriocarpa (Salicaceae). To test this, we conducted field observations and a laboratory experiment. The field observations demonstrated that the leaf flushing phenology of the willows and the seasonal dynamics of the beetle density differed between shoots with stem galls and shoots without them. On galled shoots of both willow species, secondary shoot growth and secondary leaf production were promoted; consequently, leaf production showed a bimodal pattern and leaf production periods were 1 to 2 months longer than on non-galled shoots. The adult beetle density on galled shoots was thus enhanced late in the season, and was found to change seasonally, synchronizing with the production of new leaves on the host willow species. From the results of our laboratory experiment, we attributed this synchrony between adult beetle density and willow leaf flush to beetles’ preference to eat new leaves rather than old. Indeed, beetles consumed five times more of the young leaves when they were fed both young and old leaves. These results indicate that stem galls indirectly enhance the adult beetle density by enhancing food quality and quantity late in the beetle-feeding season. We therefore conclude that midge galls widen the phenological window for leaf beetles by extending the willows’ leaf flush periods.

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