Abstract

Heortia vitessoides Moore (Lepidoptera: Crambidae) is a pest of the evergreen tree Aquilaria sinensis (Loureiro) Sprenger that is endemic to China and is the source of agarwood, a valuable fragrant wood used for traditional Chinese medicinal and incense industries. Aquilaria sinensis is endangered due to habitat loss and other factors. Twenty-one double-choice feeding bioassays were conducted to assess the response to and preference of H. vitessoides larvae to leaves collected from different A. sinensis plants showing varying degrees of larval feeding damage in the wild. Survivorship of larvae placed in the choice arenas exceeded 85% in all but two of the choice tests. Larvae also tended to aggregate and feed on one of the leaves in the choice test rather than being evenly disbursed on the two choices. Larval aggregation and feeding on leaves collected from a tree with <10% foliar damage while surrounding trees exhibited >90% damage were significantly lower in all double-choice tests conducted with that tree. Furthermore, aggregation and/or feeding on leaves removed from another tree with no damage due to the natural infestation of A. sinensis were significantly less in all but three double-choice assays. These results indicate that aggregation and feeding behavior of the gregarious H. vitessoides larvae may be influenced by the source of the leaves and that there may some levels of plant resistance among the various geographic sources of the tree.

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