Timothy Stanonik, 2009

University of Virginia

Investigations into the life history and impact of a lepidopteran frugivore

This study was conducted to determine the life history and potential impact of a previously uninvestigated lepidopteran frugivore. The new lepidopteran frugivore (henceforth NLF) was first observed in the summer of 2008 by Professor T'ai Roulston at Blandy Experimental Farm in Clarke County, Virginia, on individuals of the plant Physalis heterophylla. Before this study was conducted, almost nothing was known about the NLF's life history or how it interacted with its host or with other organisms in the environment. Over the course of summer 2009, multiple experiments were conducted in order to better establish the life history and impact of the NLF on plants of the genus Physalis. In addition to many observations of infected fruits and flowers and rearing of NLF pupae to adulthood, experiments conducted were a fruit abscission experiment, an interaction experiment with Heliothis subflexa, a bud mortality experiment, and a transferal experiment. It was found that the NLF belongs to family Gelechiidae and can be found on P. longifolia as well as P. heterophylla. The NLF spends its entire larval existence inside a single fruiting body and its presence in a fruit may be determined by certain signs on the exterior of the fruit. P. angulata and P. pubescens were confirmed to abscise fruits when physically damaged. The NLF was found to fare poorly when in direct competition with H. subflexa for resources. Buds of all four species of Physalis were found to have high mortality rates. It was found that it may be possibly to transfer NLF larvae from one plant to another. Despite this new knowledge, much still remains unknown about the NLF. Furthermore, an additional lepidopteran was discovered in the system. This species, which as a larva consumes buds of Physalis before they flower and is referred to here as ?budworm,? was previously unknown. Preliminary observations were made regarding this organism as well.

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