Effect of willow cultivar and plant age on the melezitose content of giant willow aphid (Tuberolachnus salignus) honeydew.
The giant willow aphid Tuberolachnus salignus is an invasive pest in New Zealand, attacking over 50 species and hybrids of willow. The aphids produce copious amounts of honeydew, which is used by other insects as a food source. When foraged by honeybees, T. salignus honeydew causes honey to crystallize in the comb and affects bee health; these effects are associated with the elevated melezitose content in the honeydew. The impact of host plant-related factors on T. salignus honeydew melezitose content remains unknown. This study investigated the effect of willow cultivar and plant age on the melezitose content (and that of other sugars) of T. salignus honeydew. To do so, we conducted high-performance liquid chromatography analyses of honeydew samples from 13 willow clones collected in the same season (autumn) from 1- and 2-year old plants under field conditions. Melezitose was the most abundant of the measured sugars in most samples, but its content did not vary significantly with willow cultivar or plant age. By contrast, sucrose was significantly affected by both factors. Fructose and glucose were significantly impacted by willow plant age and cultivar, respectively. A significant cultivar*age interaction was observed for all sugars. We recommend the selection of resistant willow cultivars and further research on potential biocontrol agents to lessen melezitose-related problems in apiculture industries.