The importance of an invasive tree fruit as a resource for mosquito larvae



Invasive plants are common and may provide resources through litter for container mosquito larvae. Invasive plant reproductive parts can make up a substantial part of litter but have mostly been ignored as a resource for mosquito larvae. We hypothesized that the reproductive fruits of the invasive eastern red cedar, Juniperus virginiana, provide high quality resources for the invasive, container mosquito Aedes albopictus at the western margin of its invasive range in North America. To test this hypothesis, we performed two laboratory experiments. The first examined the response of individual larvae of Ae. albopictus to different amounts of J. virginiana leaf (fresh and senesced) and J. virginiana fruit (ripe and unripe), as well as to a control leaf (Quercus virginiana, live oak). The second experiment examined the response of different densities of Ae. albopictus larvae to each litter type. We found significant differences in response by individual larvae to different amounts of litter and litter types. We also found J. virginiana litter components could support positive population growth rates as a function of initial larval density where the control leaf could not. We conclude that invasive plants may provide high quality resources, and that the reproductive parts (fruits, flowers, cones) may be an important and overlooked component in provisioning larval habitats. Therefore, the expansion of J. virginiana into grassland areas may contribute to the expansion of Ae. albopictus westward in North America.