Oviposition preference and larval performance of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) on two invasive swallow-wort species

  • DiTommaso A
  • Losey J
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The potential of two invasive herbaceous vines Vincetoxicum nigrum (L.) Moench and Vincetoxicum rossicum (Kleopow) Barbar. (Asclepiadaceae) to reduce monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus L.) (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae, Danainae) populations was investigated by evaluating oviposition selection in adult monarch butterflies and larval feeding preference in choice tests comparing the native host plant of monarch butterflies, Asclepias syriaca L. (Asclepiadaceae) and the two non-indigenous Vincetoxicum species. In both choice and no-choice tests, no eggs were oviposited on either of the two Vincetoxicum species whereas over 66 eggs per female were oviposited on A. syriaca plants. All first instar larvae allowed to feed on A. syriaca for 48 h survived while a significantly lower proportion survived on V. rossicum (44%) and V. nigrum (14%). Mean weight of larvae that did survive on the Vincetoxicum species was significantly lower than the mean weight of larvae that fed on A. syriaca. The mean weight of surviving larvae, however, did not differ between the two Vincetoxicum species. The mean proportion of leaves consumed by larvae feeding on A. syriaca was significantly greater than the mean proportion of leaves consumed by larvae feeding on either Vincetoxicum species. Findings from this research indicate that V. rossicum and V. nigrum are not viable hosts of monarch butterflies and are likely to pose little direct threat to their populations as oviposition sinks. The ability of these highly aggressive plants, however, to out-compete and displace the native host of monarchs, A. syriaca, may pose a more serious threat. The potential of monarch populations to adapt to the two Vincetoxicum species as host plants over the long-term is discussed.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Asclepias syriaca
  • Cynanchum
  • Danaus plexippus
  • Dog-strangler vine
  • Host plant preference
  • Invasive plants
  • Lepidoptera
  • Monarch butterfly
  • Nymphalidae
  • Oviposition
  • Swallow-wort
  • Vincetoxicum nigrum
  • Vincetoxicum rossicum

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  • Antonio DiTommaso

  • John E. Losey

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