Invading exotics typically face new competitors and an absence of specialized herbivores in their new ranges. Biological control attempts to reunite invasive weeds with coevolved herbivores and restoration can reduce the return of invaders by maximizing competition from native species. The integration of both approaches is seldom examined in detail, although the two should complement each other. We investigated the potential to suppress an important invasive plant, Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense [L.] Scop.), by integrating biological control and competition from two native grasses frequently used in rangeland restoration. We evaluated the impacts of Ceutorhynchus litura F. (Coleoptera: Curculionidae), a weevil used for Canada thistle biological control, alone and in combination with either needle and thread grass (Hesperostipa comata [Trin. & Rupr.] Barkworth) or alkali sacaton (Sporobolus airoides [Torr.] Torr.) in greenhouse competitive plantings. Weevil herbivory reduced root, but not shoot, biomass of Canada thistle. Competition from H. comata did not reduce biomass of thistles, but combinations of the weevil and H. comata greatly reduced thistle root biomass. S. airoides suppressed Canada thistle root biomass independent of weevils. Weevils had a positive indirect effect on the cool-season grass H. comata, presumably by reducing the competitive ability of thistles, but had no effect on biomass of the warm-season grass, S. airoides. Benefits of weevil presence as an augmentation of grass competition appear to depend on appropriate timing, and weevils provided the most benefit to the cool-season competitor. Our results suggest that restoration efforts can be complemented with insect biocontrol agents, although the timing of impact will depend on the particular weed species, grass competitors, and biocontrol insect agents involved.
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Vol. 61 • No. 5