The elm spanworm, Ennomos subsignarius Hübner (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), is an eruptive herbivore that feeds on numerous tree species in forests throughout its range. An unprecedented outbreak in an urban environment in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada, caused severe levels of defoliation to a number of native and exotic hardwood tree species, some of which represent novel hosts for this insect. Increased insect performance on these novels hosts was hypothesized as having contributed to the outbreak. To assess this, percentage larval survival and pupal weight were measured for larvae reared on foliage from six different tree species in a no-choice laboratory bioassay. Adult longevity and fecundity (no. eggs laid per female) were assessed for laboratory-reared individuals, as well as for pupae collected from eight different host tree species from the field. A survey to assess feeding occurrence measured defoliation on eight tree species. During this urban outbreak, sycamore maple, Acer pseudoplatanus, a tree species not native to North America, experienced the highest levels of defoliation. Performance of E. subsignarius (pupal weight, female longevity, and fecundity) on this host was comparable with the known host of elm (Ulmus spp.). Despite the fact that E. subsignaria performed well on several introduced hosts, fecundity levels were much lower than previously published reports, suggesting that the current outbreak is not caused by increased fecundity on these novel hosts in contrast to the hypothesis.
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