The active ingestion of xylem sap by aphids is hypothesised to be an important mechanism for rehydration. When starved bird cherry-oat aphids (Rhopalosiphum padi) were allowed to feed on wheat (Triticum aestivum) treated with a sublethal dose of the xylem-mobile neonicotinoid thiamethoxam, analysis of feeding behaviours using the electrical penetration graph revealed a reduction in xylem feeding that was reversed on removal of the toxin. To test the importance of xylem-feeding behaviour as a rehydration mechanism, the effects of the sublethal dose of thiamethoxam on aphid water content, honeydew excretion, growth and fecundity were investigated. Body water contents of starved R. padi feeding on wheat treated with thiamethoxam were significantly reduced compared to aphids feeding on wheat treated with distilled water (74.5+/-0.23 and 75.6+/-0.18%, respectively). In addition, the sublethal dose of thiamethoxam had detrimental effects on aphid performance. At reproductive maturity, aphids that had been born on wheat treated with thiamethoxam were significantly smaller (as measured by body plan area; 1.07+/-0.03mm(2)), lighter (0.31+/-0.04mg) and less fecund (2.85+/-0.36nymphs/day) than aphids born on wheat treated with distilled water (1.87+/-0.02mm(2), 0.72+/-0.03mg, 11.28+/-0.58nymphs/day, respectively). Regardless of whether the observed impairment of xylem feeding is due to a neurotoxic or an antifeedant effect, these results have important implications for commercial crop protection as the behaviour-modifying effects of the sublethal dose of thiamethoxam may change the efficacy of this pesticide throughout the growing season.
- Xylem feeding
- Electrical penetration graph (EPG)