Polyphagous insects are characterized by a broad diet comprising plant species from different taxonomic groups. Within these insects, migratory species are of particular interest, given that they encounter unpredictable environments, with abrupt spatial and temporal changes in plant availability and density. Aster leafhoppers (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae: Macrosteles quadrilineatus Forbes) arrive in the Canadian Prairies in spring and early summer and are the main vector of a prokaryotic plant pathogen known as Aster Yellows Phytoplasma (AYp) (Candidatus Phytoplasma asteris). Host choice selection behavior of Aster leafhoppers was evaluated through two-choice bioassays, using domesticated and wild plants species commonly found in the Canadian Prairies. Leaf tissues from these plants were collected and stained to quantify the number of stylet sheaths and eggs. To assess possible effects due to insect infection, two-choice bioassays were repeated using leafhoppers infected with AYp and a subset of plant species. When two domesticated or wild plant species were presented together, similar numbers of uninfected Aster leafhoppers were observed on both plant species in most combinations. In domesticated–wild plant bioassays, uninfected Aster leafhoppers preferred to settle on the domesticated species. There was little to no association between settling preferences and stylet sheath and egg counts. These findings provide a better understanding of AY epidemiology and suggest that after domesticated species germination, leafhoppers could move from nearby wild plants into the preferred cereals (Poales: Poaceae) to settle on them, influencing the risk of AYp infection in some of these species.
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Vol. 51 • No. 2