Role of oviposition preference in an invasive crambid impacting two graminaceous host crops.
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Oviposition preference studies of the Mexican rice borer, Eoreuma loftini (Dyar), on sugarcane, Saccharum spp., and rice, Oryza sativa L., showed that drought stressed sugarcane was 1.8-fold more attractive based on egg masses/plant than well watered sugarcane. The E. loftini susceptible sugarcane cultivar LCP 85-384 was 1.6-fold more attractive than HoCP 85-845 based on numbers of eggs per egg mass. Egg masses were 9.2-fold more abundant and 2.3-fold larger on sugarcane than on rice. Rice, however, was preferred to sugarcane on a plant biomass basis. Oviposition on sugarcane occurred exclusively on dry leaf material, which increased under drought stress. Egg masses per plant increased on drought stressed sugarcane and were correlated with several foliar free amino acids essential for insect growth and development. The more resistant (based on injury) but more attractive (based on oviposition) rice cultivar XL8 had higher levels of several free amino acids than the susceptible cultivar Cocodrie. The association of host plant characteristics to oviposition preference is discussed. Projected oviposition patterns relative to sugarcane and rice production areas were estimated for Texas and Louisiana based on the availability of each host in different regions of each state. These results suggest that, where sugarcane and rice co-occur, the majority of eggs would be found on sugarcane early in the season, because of this crop's substantially greater biomass compared with rice. Abundance later in the season would also favor sugarcane; however, the abundance on rice would be greater than expected solely based on host availability, largely because of the greater preference per gram of rice plant dry weight.