The Botanophila-Epichloë association in cultivated Festuca in Oregon: Evidence of simple fungivory

S. Rao, S. C. Alderman, J. Takeyasu, B. Matson

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We investigated the Botanophila (Diptera: Anthomyiidae)-Epichloë (Ascomycetes: Clavicipitaceae) interaction in cultivated Festuca spp. (fine fescue) in Oregon in western USA. Epichloë spp. are endophytic fungi of grasses in the subfamily Pooideae. They develop a felt-like stroma on the surface of grass culms and a dense mycelium within the culms that typically prevents seed head emergence. As a result, seed yields are suppressed, and hence the disease is known as choke. Studies of Epichloë spp. on wild grasses indicate that the fly-fungus interaction is an obligatory mutualism. During oviposition, Botanophila transfers Epichloë spermatia between stromata of opposite mating types, and the perithecia that develop after fungal fertilization serve as food for Botanophila larvae. In the current study, we surveyed 19 cultivated fields of Festuca spp. in Oregon, and observed choke caused by Epichloë festucae Leuchtmann, Schardl and Siegl in 10 of these. However, perithecia were observed in only four fields, and on only 1.0-2.6% of stromata. Perithecial development was also low, and rarely covered 50% of the stroma surface. Despite the absence or low frequency of fertilized stromata, Botanophila lobata Collin larvae were present in all choke-infested fields. Infestation levels ranged from 2.5 to 70.7%, based on an examination of 175-200 stromata from each field. Only eight (= 2%) of the 450 stromata with B. lobata had perithecia, and the greater majority of B. lobata larvae completed development and exited from unfertilized stromata. This is the first report of the B. lobata-E. festucae association in the USA, and of B. lobata larvae developing successfully on unfertilized Epichloë stromata. The average pupal weight (0.0032 g) did not differ significantly from pupae (0.0030 g) originating from larvae that had developed on fertilized stromata of E. typhina on Dactylis glomerata in a neighboring field. This result indicates that in cultivated fine fescue fields in Oregon, B. lobata forages on E. festucae, but fly development is not dependent on the fertilized stromata of Epichloë.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)427-433
Number of pages7
JournalEntomologia Experimentalis et Applicata
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2005


  • Anthomyiidae
  • Ascomycetes
  • Botanophila lobata
  • Choke disease
  • Clavicipitaceae
  • Diptera
  • Epichloë festucae
  • Exotic fungus
  • Festuca rubra
  • Fine fescue
  • Fly-fungus interaction
  • Oregon


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