Potential interactions between invasive woody shrubs and the gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar), an invasive insect herbivore

Ryan W. McEwan, Lynne K. Rieske, Mary A. Arthur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


As the range of the invasive and highly polyphagous gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) expands, it increasingly overlaps with forest areas that have been subject to invasion by non-native shrubs. We explored the potential for interactions between these co-occurring invasions through a gypsy moth feeding trial using the following three highly invasive, exotic shrubs: honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii), privet (Ligustrum sinense) and burning bush (Euonymus alatus). We compared these with two native shrubs: spicebush (Lindera benzoin) and pawpaw (Asimina triloba). We fed gypsy moth caterpillars foliage exclusively from one of the five shrubs and measured their relative consumptive rate (RCR), relative growth rate (RGR), and development time (DT). The RCR of gypsy moth was strongly influenced by the species of foliage (F = 31.9; P < 0.0001) with little or no consumption of honeysuckle and privet. Caterpillar RGR was influenced by the shrub species (F = 66.2; P < 0.0001), and those caterpillars fed spicebush, honeysuckle or privet lost weight over the course of the assay. Caterpillar DT was also significantly (F = 11.79, P < 0.0001) influenced by the shrub species and those fed honeysuckle, privet and spicebush died prior to molting. Overall, our data suggest that honeysuckle, privet, and spicebush could benefit (indirectly) from the invasion of gypsy moth, while burning bush and pawpaw could be negatively impacted due to direct effects (herbivory). Similarly, invading gypsy moth populations could be sustained on a shrub layer of burning bush and pawpaw in the event of canopy defoliation. Further field and laboratory analysis is needed to clarify herbivore resistance of invasive shrubs, and to investigate the potential interactions among co-occurring insect and plant invasions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1053-1058
Number of pages6
JournalBiological Invasions
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements This work was supported by University of Kentucky Faculty Research Support Grant. We thank, Jean-Paul Baptiste, Ryan Quire, Melanie Antonik and Tom Coleman for assistance with data collection. Jim Lempke at the University of Kentucky Arboretum provided access to plant material. This study (# 08-09-080) is connected with a project of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station and is published with the approval of the director.


  • Asimina triloba
  • Euonymus alatus
  • Forest understory
  • Lindera benzoin
  • Lonicera maackii

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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