Biological Invasions

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 283–293 | Cite as

There goes the neighborhood: apparent competition between invasive and native orchids mediated by a specialist florivorous weevil

  • Wilnelia Recart
  • James D. Ackerman
  • Ana A. Cuevas
Original Paper


The exotic orchid, Spathoglottis plicata, has naturalized and spread rapidly over Puerto Rico where it is generally considered to be innocuous. It is abundant and occupies the same habitat as the native orchid, Bletia patula. The two are hosts to the same native weevil, Stethobaris polita, a specialist on orchid flowers. We ask whether the weevils mediate apparent competition between the two orchids. We monitored weevil populations, floral damage and fruit set in B. patula in the presence and absence of S. plicata. We also experimentally tested whether weevils preferred one species over the other. Finally, we modeled the distribution of both orchid species to predict the extent by which the two species may interact in Puerto Rico. We found a significantly lower number of weevils and a higher fruit set for B. patula where S. plicata is absent, indicative that apparent competition is occurring. The choice experiments show that weevils prefer flowers of S. plicata over those of B. patula, but B. patula still sustained considerable damage. The current distribution of the native B. patula is nearly limited to the northern karst region of Puerto Rico. The naturalized S. plicata has a broader range and the models predict that its distribution will strongly overlap with that of B. patula. We expect the S. plicata invasion to continue and affect native orchids through apparent competition as long as the presence of S. plicata maintains elevated weevil populations. Thus, even seemingly harmless invasive orchids can have subtle but significant negative consequences.


Herbivory Indirect effects Multiple species interactions Florivory Apparent competition Biological invasions 



We thank Curt Daehler, Daniel Diaz, Nadia Flores, Wilfredo Falcón and Raymond Tremblay for helping with the species distribution modeling, GIS techniques and statistics. We are also grateful to Wildelina González, Ricardo Arriaga and Eduardo Otero for serving as field assistants. Constructive criticisms from anonymous reviewers were much appreciated. This work was supported by funds from NSF-UMEB: Undergraduate research on tropical ecosystems: from rainforest to cities (DBI-0602642, Alonso Ramírez PI), NSF-CREST (HRD-0734826, Elvira Cuevas PD), Ecological Society of America SEEDs program, and USDA Faculty and Student Training fellowships.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wilnelia Recart
    • 1
  • James D. Ackerman
    • 1
  • Ana A. Cuevas
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biology and Center for Applied Tropical Ecology and Conservation, Faculty of Natural SciencesUniversity of Puerto RicoSan JuanUSA

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