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This content will become publicly available on October 17, 2023

Title: Host plant phenology shapes aphid abundance and interactions with ants
Phenological mismatch can occur when plants and herbivores differentially respond to changing phenological cues, such as temperature or snow melt date. This often shifts herbivore feeding to plant stages of lower quality. How herbivores respond to plant quality may be also mediated by temperature, which could lead to temperature-by-phenology interactions. We examined how aphid abundance and mutualism with ants were impacted by temperature and host plant phenology. In this study system, aphids Aphis asclepiadis colonize flowering stalks of the host plant, Ligusticum porteri. Like other aphids, abundance of this species is dependent on ant protection. To understand how host plant phenology and temperature affect aphid abundance, we used a multiyear observational study and a field experiment. We observed 20 host plant populations over five years (2017–2021), tracking temperature and snow melt date as well as host plant phenology and insect abundance. We found host plant and aphid phenology to differentially respond to temperature and snow melt timing. Early snow melt accelerated host plant phenology to a greater extent than aphid phenology, which was more responsive to temperature. Both the likelihood of aphid colony establishment and ant recruitment were reduced when aphids colonized host plants at post-flowering stages. In 2019, we more » experimentally accelerated host plant phenology by advancing snow melt date by two weeks. We factorially combined this treatment with open top warming chambers surrounding aphid colonies. Greatest growth occurred for colonies under ambient temperatures when they occurred on host plants at the flowering stage. Altogether, our results suggest that phenological mismatch with host plants can decrease aphid abundance, and this effect is exacerbated by temperature increases and changes to the ant–aphid mutualism. « less
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  1. Abstract

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