Winter feeding leads to a shifted phenology in the browntail moth Euproctis chrysorrhoea on the evergreen strawberry tree Arbutus unedo

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Abstract:

• The browntail moth Euproctis chrysorrhoea is a highly polyphagous univoltine forest pest. Although its young larvae usually overwinter in diapause from early autumn to the beginning of spring, winter larval feeding has been reported when this species feeds on the evergreen woody shrub strawberry tree Arbutus unedo.

• The present study investigated life-history traits of four populations of E. chrysorrhoea feeding on A. unedo, including phenology of the different life stages, larval feeding activity and diapause incidence. By modelling the relationship between larval size and host plant leaf persistence, elevation and mean annual temperature, we also studied larval development in ten populations of this species sampled from a range of geographical locations in Spain, from both A. unedo and deciduous hosts.

• The results obtained revealed that on A. unedo, E. chrysorrhoea phenology has shifted: from October to March, A. unedo larvae doubled their size, whereas, on deciduous Ulmus minor and Quercus faginea, larval size did not change. General linear models demonstrated that such differences were not related to environmental variables. We also found that on A. unedo larval feeding was arrested for 2 months, with this period representing a true diapause.

• The results obtained in the present study suggest that E. chrysorrhoea populations are phenologically adapted to their local host plants, and that the presence of foliage is a key element in the phenological shift reported on A. unedo. These results may have implications with respect to the formation of E. chrysorrhoea host races.
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