In a cottonwood (Populus) hybrid zone, Chaitophorus aphids attract aphid-tending ants which subsequently reduce herbivory by the leaf-feeding beetle, Chrysomela confluens. Observations and experimental manipulations of aphids and beetle larvae on immature cottonwood trees demonstrated that: 1) via their recruitment of ants, aphids reduced numbers of beetle eggs and larvae on the host; 2) these interactions occurred within a few days of the host being colonized by aphids; and 3) although aphid colonies were ephemeral, their presence resulted in a 2-fold reduction in beetle herbivory. The aphid-ant interaction is most important in the hybrid zone where 93% of the beetle population is concentrated (for reasons unrelated to aphids and ants). Because beetle defoliation of immature trees is high (ca. 25%), the indirect effect of aphids in reducing herbivory is likely more beneficial to trees in the hybrid zone than in adjacent pure zones where beetle herbivory is virtually absent. Tree genotype likely affects the impact of the aphid-ant interaction on trees within the hybrid zone, since levels of herbivory differ between sympatric Fremont and hybrid cottonwoods.
- Ant-aphid interaction
- Indirect effects
- Plant defense
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics