Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type

Master's Thesis





First Advisor

Dr. James D. Harwood


Poison hemlock, Conium maculatum (Apiaceae), is an invasive plant in North America with a unique toxic chemistry. Previous research on this plant has focused on identifying herbivores as potential biological control agents or describing the toxic plant alkaloids. However, none have examined the role of higher trophic levels in the food web surrounding poison hemlock. Generalist predators and food web interactions are an important component of studies investigating invasion effects, as plant or animal introductions can alter ecosystem functioning. In this study, predators in poison hemlock were sampled at the foliar and epigeal levels, resulting in 956 Carabidae and 321 Coccinellidae being collected. Predator connectedness to plant resources was quantified using molecular gut-content and chemical analyses. Foliar Harmonia axyridis (Coccinellidae) contained aphid DNA and plant chemicals, while Harpalus pensylvanicus (Carabidae) only contained alkaloids, suggesting that the ground predators were obtaining plant chemicals via alternative prey. Feeding trials between H. axyridis and their potentially toxic prey, Hyadaphis foeniculi (Aphididae), revealed that the exotic predator shows faster development when consuming aphids from poison hemlock compared to alternative diets. This study reveals that three Eurasian species may be facilitating one another, illustrating the importance of continued examination of invasive species interactions.

Included in

Entomology Commons