Endophytic insect communities of two prairie perennials (Asteraceae: Silphium spp.)

John F. Tooker, Lawrence M. Hanks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Little is known of the biology of most insects that are endemic to prairie ecosystems of North America, with the exception of large and conspicuous species. In particular, species that are sequestered within plant tissues are commonly overlooked. In this paper, we assess the biodiversity of endophytic insects that inhabit stems of Silphium laciniatum L. and S. terebinthinaceum Jacquin (Asteraceae), endemic plants of tallgrass prairies. Endophytic herbivores, gall wasps Antistrophus rufus Gillette and A. minor Gillette (Hymenoptera: Cynipidae) and stem-boring larvae of the beetle Mordellistena aethiops Smith (Coleoptera: Mordellidae) were attacked by 10 species of natural enemies. We report new host plant associations for herbivores, and new host insect associations for parasitoids. The two plant species differed significantly in their densities of gall wasps and the vertical dispersion of galls within stems. Interactions within and between trophic levels attest to the biodiversity of endophytic insect communities, and the specialized nature of these insects suggests they are highly vulnerable to habitat conservation practices that involve destruction of dead vegetation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2551-2566
Number of pages16
JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
Issue number13
StatePublished - 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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