Invasive oaks escape pre-dispersal insect seed predation and trap enemies in their seeds.
Species introduced to habitats outside their native range often escape control by their natural enemies. Besides competing with native species, an alien species might also affect the native herbivores by introducing a new source of different quality food. Here, we describe the case of northern red oak (Quercus rubra) invasion in Europe. We collected data on insect (moth Cydia spp. and weevil Curculio spp.) seed predation of northern red oak in its native (USA, North America) and invasive (Poland, Europe) range, as well as for sessile oaks (Quercus petrea) in Europe. We also evaluated the quality of acorns as hosts for weevil larvae by collecting infested acorns and measuring weevil developmental success, and quantifying acorn traits such as seed mass, tannins, lipids and protein concentration. We used DNA barcoding to identify insects to the species level. The predation by moths was similar and very low in both species and in both ranges. However, red oaks escape pre-dispersal seed predation by weevils in Europe. Weevil infestation rates of northern red oak acorns in their invasive range were 10 times lower than that of sessile oaks, and also 10 times lower than that of red oaks in North America. Furthermore, even when weevils oviposited into northern red oaks, the larvae failed to develop, suggesting that the exotic host created a trap for the insect. This phenomenon might gradually decrease the local abundance of the seed predator, and further aid the invasion.