Migratory moths as dispersal vectors of an introduced plant-pathogenic fungus in Japan

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The plant-pathogenic fungus Claviceps paspali infects florets of the dallisgrass Paspalum dilatatum and induces the plant to produce honeydew (containing massive amounts of conidia), which in turn attracts insects for dispersal of the fungal spores. In Japan, the association between C. paspali and its host plant is common, although both P. dilatatum and C. paspali are introduced species. To determine the dispersal agents of the introduced C. paspali, we examined which insects sapped the P. dilatatum honeydew produced by C. paspali. The study was conducted from September to October 2003 in central Japan. Adults of 48 moth species and two lacewing species visited infected spikelets of P. dilatatum and sapped the honeydew at night. The dominant moths, which carried C. paspali conidia on their proboscises, migrate long distances every year. Therefore, migratory moths may transmit C. paspali spores from diseased to healthy host plants and may have spread C. paspali to other areas in Japan where C. paspali did not previously exist.

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