Non-native plant drives the spatial dynamics of its herbivores: the case of black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) in Europe.
Non-native plants typically benefit from enemy release following their naturalization in non-native habitats. However, over time, herbivorous insects specializing on such plants may invade from the native range and thereby diminish the benefits of enemy release that these plants may experience. In this study, we compare rates of invasion spread across Europe of three North American insect folivores: the Lepidoptera leaf miners Macrosaccus robiniella and Parectopa robiniella, and the gall midge Obolodiplosis robiniae, that specialize on Robinia pseudoacacia. This tree species is one of the most widespread non-native trees in Europe. We find that spread rates vary among the three species and that some of this variation can be explained by differences in their life history traits. We also report that geographical variation in spread rates are influenced by distribution of Robinia pseudoacacia, human population and temperature, though Robinia pseudoacacia occurrence had the greatest influence. The importance of host tree occurrence on invasion speed can be explained by the general importance of hosts on the population growth and spread of invading species.