Impact of generalist predation on two weed biocontrol agents in New Zealand
Keywords:Biotic interference, Gonioctena olivacea, Limenitis glorifica, food web
The broom leaf beetle (Gonioctena olivacea) and the Honshu white admiral butterfly (Limenitis glorifica) have been introduced into New Zealand as biocontrol agents of the weeds Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) and Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) respectively. However, neither agent has been successful yet. Larval predation of these species could be a factor affecting their success, and this hypothesis was tested using various predator-exclusion treatments. Survival of broom leaf beetle larvae increased c. five-fold by sleeving Scotch broom seedlings in fine mesh. In contrast, survival was unaffected by excluding either crawling predators using sticky barriers or larger predators using chicken wire. Survival of Honshu white admiral butterfly larvae increased c. ten-fold by excluding either crawling predators using sticky barriers or flying predators using a fine-mesh sleeve. Simultaneously excluding both crawling and flying predators resulted in a c. 23-fold increase in survival. These results suggest that larval predation could be limiting the populations of both broom leaf beetle and Honshu white admiral. Future biocontrol programmes could prioritise candidate agents accordingly.