Several phytophagous insects exhibit distinct preference for their host plants. In widely distributed generalist insects, host preference can be influenced by geographic variation in host plant distribution and abundance as well as by prior experience. We have studied host preference of the cotton fleahopper, Pseudatomoscelis seriatus (Reuter), a pest of cotton in Texas and other neighboring states, by measuring olfactory orientation to horsemint (Monardapunctata L.) and cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.). Horsemint is one of the primary, native, wild hosts of cotton fleahopper during late-spring and early summer in Texas, and it is commonly believed to be the main source of this pest in cotton. Although the abundance of horsemint, and therefore the fleahopper exposure to it, varies geographically, cotton fleahopper's preference for this native host-plant is maintained across two ecoregions in Texas, TX High Plains (Lubbock area) and Brazos Valley (College Station area). Similarly, preference for horsemint was retained regardless of prior experience with cotton throughout all the life stages of the insect. This fixed preference of cotton fleahopper to horsemint could be because of their ancestral insect-plant interaction, better fitness of cotton fleahopper on horsemint, and relatively low abundance of horsemint compared with cotton. Information gained from this study could be used to implement cultural control practices such as trap cropping, to develop attractants to monitor this pest, or both.
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Vol. 41 • No. 1