Mutual benefit interactions between banded pine weevil Pissodes castaneus and blue-stain fungus Leptographium serpens in maritime pine
Abstract:• Ecological interactions between banded pine weevil Pissodes castaneus and blue-stain fungus Leptographium serpens, when simultaneously sharing the same host plant (maritime pine Pinus pinaster) in winter and spring, were investigated. Temporal components of the interaction were taken into account by either introducing the weevils and the pathogen simultaneously or sequentially, with the weevils being introduced 1 month after the fungal inoculation.
• We measured larval mortality, development time, offspring number, sex ratio and body size of P. castaneus. Phloem phosphorus and nitrogen concentrations were also assessed. Furthermore, we tested whether: (i) emerging offspring transported propagules of the fungus; (ii) artificially-contaminated weevils may transmit the disease to healthy trees; and (iii) field collected P. castaneus carry the fungus.
• The fungus enhanced weevil colonization and brood production in both seasons. During winter and spring, adults from trees where the pathogen was inoculated prior to weevil introduction emerged earlier than weevils from trees where they had been introduced simultaneously with the fungus. During winter, weevils from pre-inoculated trees were also larger. Sex ratio and larval mortality were not affected. Leptographium serpens did not affect phloem nitrogen content but phosphorus content was greater in plants inoculated with the pathogen, which may explain the findings on weevil growth.
• Sixty-five percent of the weevils that emerged from inoculated trees carried spores of L. serpens, although no successful isolation was made from field collected weevils. The fungus was recovered from 25% of the trees infested with artificially-contaminated weevils.
• These results suggest that P. castaneus benefits from the presence of L. serpens and may contribute to its spread.