Impact of field densities of the naturalized defoliator Caloptilia triadicae (Lepidoptera: Gracillariidae) on the invasive weed Chinese tallowtree.
Chinese tallowtree, Triadica sebifera (L.) Small (Euphoriaceae), is one of the most aggressive weeds of coastal wetlands and forests of the southeastern United States. The lack of specialist herbivores in the invaded range may be one of the factors that contribute to the invasive nature of this weed. Chinese tallowtree has been the target of a classical biological control project since 2006. Several herbivore species are being tested for biological control of Chinese tallowtree. Concurrently, an adventive herbivore, Caloptilia triadicae Davis (Lepidoptera: Gracillariidae), was found feeding on Chinese tallowtree in the southeastern United States in 2004 and now occurs throughout the invaded range. Field populations of C. triadicae from two sites caused extensive mining damage to the Chinese tallowtree leaves. The greatest damage occurred after 30 d of exposure to C. triadicae in the herbivory treatment and amounted to about 25-30 leaf mines (early instars) and leaf rolls (late instars) per plant. Insecticide-treated plants had atmost 5-10 leaf mines and rolls per plant. Despite this difference, plant growth in height, number of new branches, and leaves did not differ significantly from plants protected from herbivory. Analysis of harvested plant results suggested that, in general, herbivory had little impact on biomass. However, there was a slight reduction in trunk weights in the unrestricted herbivory treatment compared with the insecticide-treated plants. Although this study exposed experimental plants to only 60 d of herbivory, these results suggested that C. triadicae alone will not exert sufficient control of invasive populations of Chinese tallowtree. Furthermore, they indicated that continued development of biological control agents that target Chinese tallowtree are needed.