Spatial analysis ofListronotus maculicollisimmature stages demonstrates strong associations with conspecifics and turfgrass damage but not with optimal hosts on golf course fairways

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Abstract

For insects that develop on few hosts and/or have immobile immature stages, optimal oviposition theory suggests that females should seek high-quality hosts that maximize larval development and reduce competition from conspecifics. However, there is a growing amount of evidence that suggests female choice may often be at odds with their offspring's development. Listronotus maculicollis (Kirby) (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) is a serious pest of golf course turfgrass in eastern North America. The weevil develops on few hosts and demonstrates improved fitness traits when developing on Poa annua L. (Poaceae). However, previous population studies observed either weak or no correlations between the spatial dispersion of larval populations and P. annua in the field. In this study, populations on three golf course fairways were monitored over a 4-year period (2009–2012) to determine whether the lack of spatial associations between preferred hosts and immatures was a result of spatial scale or the density and distribution of conspecifics. Spatial Analysis by Distance IndicEs (SADIE) was used to characterize the spatial dispersion of populations of individual stages (larvae and pupae), P. annua, and turfgrass damage. Life stages were aggregated in each observation, independent of population density or the spatial dispersion of hosts. The distribution of consecutive and non-consecutive immature stages was found to be correlated in all years, suggesting that females do not avoid patches already occupied by conspecific eggs. Surprisingly, significant spatial associations were not found between larvae and P. annua when the host plant was relatively abundant. Hence, multiple mechanisms may drive L. maculicollis oviposition site-selection behavior, and a flexible strategy may allow the weevil to persist in areas where P. annua is not the dominant species. Future studies are required to determine what other factors (e.g., natural enemy-free space, egg or time limitations) influence oviposition behavior.

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