The invasive Leptoglossus seed bug, a threat for commercial seed crops, but for conifer diversity?
Among the recent introductions of alien insects in Europe, the polyphagous western conifer seed bug, Leptoglossus occidentalis Heidemann (Heteroptera; Coreidae) can seriously be regarded as a major threat for all the European conifer forests. In the current study combining laboratory and field experimentations, we characterized first bug damage by developing specific damage categories on seeds of different conifer species by the use of X-ray. Secondly, we investigated the impact of the invasive bug on key conifer species used for afforestation in Western and Central Europe. For this purpose, we performed germination tests on predated seeds which revealed that even light damage (consumption of <1/3 of the whole seed content) strongly reduced the germination capability of the seed. We also compared the impact of feeding on the proportion of filled seeds. Second year cones of Pinus sylvestris and Pinus nigra have been enclosed and offered to different life stages (nymphs and adults) and the results showed a significant reduction of filled seeds whatever the life stage. In field, we annually surveyed the bug seed damage for six different conifer species planted in southwestern French seed orchards. Taking into account the economic value of improved seeds in seed orchards, economic impact of bug damage was important although never exceeded 25%. Two natural or semi-natural alpine pine stands were also surveyed and appeared to be highly affected by the bug (up to 70% of damaged seeds). Therefore, bug damage could also be considered as a serious threat for seed production in natural stands.