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Plasticity in adult WCR (Western Corn Rootworm) feeding behaviour facilitate the invasion of Europe

The food utilization of adults of the invasive maize pest western corn rootworm (WCR; Diabrotica virgifera virgifera) was studied in its newly colonized range in Southern Europe. During a period of ten weeks we collected ten beetles per field per week from six fields with a high abundance of flowering weeds and six fields with a low abundance with the aim of understanding adult feeding behaviour in Europe. Gut content analysis was performed to determine the use of maize tissue and weed pollen with regard to maize phenology. Furthermore, all pollen found within the gut was identified and quantified to plant species level.

The use of maize tissue by adult WCR (Western Corn Rootworm) changed with time according to maize phenology. Furthermore, pollen resources other than maize were used more frequently as the maize matured. A more detailed pollen analysis of the beetles revealed that adults fed on a high diversity of pollen, comprising 73% of all weed species (19 different plant species from 25 in total) found within maize fields. The use of different pollen resources was not dependent on their abundance but was determined by the preference of adult WCR for specific weed pollen. Pollen other than maize was found more frequently in beetles from fields with a high abundance of weeds compared to beetles from fields with a low abundance of weeds.

Female and male beetles differed significantly in their use of alternative pollen resources; total numbers of pollen were higher in females, whereas males fed on a higher diversity of host plants. The pollen resources used by adult WCR in Southern Hungary are more diverse in comparison to data from the USA. Adaptation of their feeding behaviour to more heterogeneous environmental conditions may contribute to the invasion success of WCR in Europe.

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Reported by

Institute for Plant Pathology / University Gottingen
Grisebachstrasse 6
37077 Gottingen
Germany
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