Characterization of seed predation in Castor Bean (Ricinus communis L.) plants in southern California
Authors:Ashley Brown, Nicole Forbes
Mentor:Victor Carmona, Assistant Professor of Biology, Loyola Marymount University
The study characterizes the natural history of seed damage by an unidentified Lepidopteran larvae found inside of the pods and feeding on the seeds of Castor Bean (Ricinus communis L.) plants. Castor Bean plants are invasive in southern California, where approximately $82 million is spent annually to combat invasive plant species. Extremely toxic for many animals, Castor Bean plants produce seed crops throughout the year that do not form long-term seed banks. The unidentified Lepidopteran species may be a potentially useful biocontrol tool for reducing the standing seed crop future Castor Bean contributions to an ephemeral seed bank. Field collection of Castor Bean pods during the Spring months reflect three different levels of seed damage and an average of 6.2% ± 5.7% (mean ± SD) range of the standing seed crop with visible signs of damage. This study is currently evaluating the damage of the standing Castor Bean seed crop during the Fall months and is rearing seed pods in order to identify the Lepidopteran species.