As part of a biological control program against Spartina alterniflora Loisel. (smooth cordgrass), we simultaneously released populations of the planthopper Prokelisia marginata (van Duzee) from four geographic areas in each of five replicate field sites in the Willapa Bay estuary in Washington State. The four sources (California, Georgia, Virginia, and Rhode Island) have varying climate and seasonal regimes. We expected local adaptations would affect performance in the new environment. Using vacuum sampling, we measured population densities in spring and fall for 2 yr after release. In addition, we measured the timing of spring emergence through bi-weekly surveys of the number of nymphs residing in overwintering sites (curled leaves of senesced Spartina culms) versus on live green shoots. The observed sequence of emergence GA>CA>VA>RI was consistent with the hypothesis that this insect responds to a photoperiod cue for emergence timing. The four populations also differed in their reproductive capacity as measured by the increase in population densities over the summer months. Overall, the California and Rhode Island populations had higher population growth than those from Virginia and Georgia. Our results suggest that the climate and seasonal adaptations of biocontrol agents should be carefully considered as they can affect the performance and phenology in the new range. At the same time, it is noteworthy that all four populations were capable of establishing and growing, indicating a degree of resiliency for populations experiencing a rapid change in climate.
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Vol. 41 • No. 3