Seasonal abundance of Tuberolachnus salignus and its effect on flowering of host willows of varying susceptibility.
The giant willow aphid Tuberolachnus salignus Gmelin is a large phloem-feeding insect which colonizes the stems of willow trees. This aphid is a new invasive species in New Zealand and there is limited knowledge of its inter-annual population patterns and the damage it can cause to willow hosts. Our study investigated the T. salignus population dynamics and its effects on the flowering parameters of fifteen willow species and hybrids in a field trial. The aphid population levels were found to vary among the willow species and hybrids. Based on the aphid population levels, the willow species and hybrids were classified as resistant, moderately resistant, susceptible or highly susceptible. T. salignus infestation had no effect on the flowering of resistant and moderately resistant willows, but significantly delayed the flowering time, extended the flowering duration, and decreased the catkin length in susceptible species and hybrids. Interestingly, aphid infestation was found to increase the catkin number and total floral output of some willow species and hybrids. It can be concluded that aphid populations and their effects on flowering are host-specific, with large differences between resistant and susceptible host plants.