Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Introduced pathogens follow the invasion front of a spreading alien host

Formally Refereed
Authors: Ann E. Hajek, Patrick C. Tobin
Year: 2011
Type: Scientific Journal
Station: Northern Research Station
Source: Journal of Animal Ecology. 80: 1217-1226. Includes supporting information pages.


When an invasive species first colonizes an area, there is an interval before any host-specific natural enemies arrive at the new location. Population densities of newly invading species are low, and the spatial and temporal interactions between spreading invasive species and specific natural enemies that follow are poorly understood. We measured infection rates of two introduced host-specific pathogens, the entomophthoralean fungus Entomophaga maimaiga and the baculovirus Lymantria dispar nucleopolyhedrovirus (LdNPV), occurring in spreading populations of an invasive forest defoliator, L. dispar (gypsy moth), in central Wisconsin. Over 3 years, we found that host density was closely associated with the presence and prevalence of both pathogens. The fungal and viral pathogens differed in the sensitivity of their response as E. maimaiga was present in lower-density host population than LdNPV. We examined the relationship between weather conditions and infection prevalence and found that activity of both the fungus and virus was strongly seasonally influenced by temperature and rainfall or temperature alone, respectively. Purposeful releases of pathogens (median distances of study sites from release sites were 65·2 km for E. maimaiga and 25·6 km for LdNPV) were not associated with pathogen prevalence. A generalist fly parasitoid, Compsilura concinnata, also killed L. dispar larvae collected from the study sites, and parasitism was greater when infection by pathogens was lower. Our results demonstrated that although infection levels were low in newly established host populations, host-specific pathogens had already moved into host populations close behind advancing populations of an invasive host; thus, spreading hosts were released from these enemies for only a relatively short time.


disease spread, enemy release hypothesis, Entomophaga maimaiga, gypsy moth, invasion ecology, nucleopolyhedrovirus, pathogen ecology


Hajek, Ann E.; Tobin, Patrick C. 2011. Introduced pathogens follow the invasion front of a spreading alien host. Journal of Animal Ecology. 80: 1217-1226.