bioRxiv | 2019
Growth and mortality of the oak processionary moth, Thaumetopoea processionea L., on two oak species: direct and trait-mediated effects of host and neighbour species identity
The presence of heterospecific neighbours can affect damage caused by pest insects on focal plants. However, how plant neighbours influence herbivore performance is poorly understood. We tested the independent and interactive effects of tree species identity and tree neighbour type (conspecific vs. heterospecific) on the performance of a major oak pest, the oak processionary moth larvae (OPM, Thaumetopoea processionea) fed on Quercus robur and Q. petraea. We performed a factorial greenhouse experiment in which we grew two oak saplings per pot, either from the same species or from both species. We quantified growth and mortality of OPM larvae, leaf phenolic compounds, C:N ratio and bud phenology. OPM larvae performed significantly better on Q. petraea than on Q. robur, regardless of plant neighbour type. Phenolic compounds and C:N, but not phenology, differed between oak species and neighbour species identity. Only bud phenology had a significant effect on OPM performance, which was better when young larvae had access to recently unfolded leaves, regardless of oak species and neighbour identity. Although oak neighbour identity altered the expression of leaf traits, this effect had no measurable consequences on OPM performance. However, further studies should consider the effect of oak species neighbour on OPM preferences for either Q. robur or Q. petraea, in pure and mixed stands, before translating current results into recommendations for forest management. Author Contribution TD and BC conceived the study and acquired the data. TD performed experiment and analysed the data. EV, TD and XM performed the chemical analyses. TD and BC drafted the first version of the manuscript and all authors wrote the final version of the manuscript. TD, BC conceived and designed research. TD performed experiment and analysed data. EV, TD, XM performed the chemical analyses. TD, BC wrote the manuscript. All authors read and approved the manuscript. AM and DB conceived and designed research. AM and BB conducted experiments. GR contributed new reagents or analytical tools. AM, BB and GR analysed data. AM wrote the manuscript. All authors read and approved the manuscript.