Homalodisca vitripennis (Germar) and related species have caused millions of dollars in damage to southern California vineyards in recent years through the vectoring of Pierce's disease. However, the effects of surrounding vegetation on the dispersal and distribution of H. vitripennis are poorly understood. Therefore, the relationship between dispersal rates and patch quality was tested, as well as the basic predictions of the marginal value theorem. Additional experiments were conducted to compare the H. vitripennis distribution in an isolated crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) patch and a L. indica patch bordering two alternative host patches. In mark-release-recapture tests, H. vitripennis dispersed farther from the release point in a patch of low-quality host plants (Prunus persica) than in patches of high-quality host plants (L. indica). In addition, H. vitripennis remained in L. indica patches longer than in P. persica patches and adjusted patch residence times in P. persica in correlation with known changes in plant physiology. These data suggest that H. vitripennis follows the basic predictions of marginal value theorem. In distribution tests, H. vitripennis were more abundant in the patch center than patch edges in the isolated L. indica patch, but in a patch bordering cottonwood (Populus sp.) and peach (P. persica), H. vitripennis numbers were generally higher along the edges of the patch. These data suggest that alternate hosts bordering cropping systems may be important to the spatial dynamics of H. vitripennis. Implications of these spatial observations on the biology of H. vitripennis and potential control methods are discussed.
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