Unsuccessful introduced biocontrol agents can act as pollinators of invasive weeds: Bitou Bush (Chrysanthemoides monilifera ssp. rotundata) as an example.
The extent of self-compatibility and reliance on pollinators for seed set are critical determinants of reproductive success in invasive plant species. Seed herbivores are commonly used as biocontrol agents but may also act as flower visitors, potentially resulting in pollination. However, such contrasting or potentially counterproductive interaction effects are rarely considered or evaluated for biological control programs. We investigated the breeding system and pollinators of Bitou Bush (Chrysanthemoides monilifera ssp. rotundata), an invasive species in Australia that has been the subject of biocontrol programs since 1987. We found the species to be obligate outcrossing in all six populations tested. From 150 video hours, we found 21 species of potential pollinators, including Mesoclanis polana, the Bitou Seedfly, native to South Africa and released in Australia as a biocontrol agent in 1996. Mesoclanis polana transferred pollen to stigmas and was the most common pollinator (52% of pollinator visits), followed by the syrphid fly Simosyrphus grandicornis (9%) and introduced honeybee, Apis mellifera (6.5%). Fruit-to-flower ratios ranged from 0.12 to 0.45 and were highest in the population with the greatest proportion of Mesoclanis polana visits. In an experimental trial, outside the naturalized range, the native bee Homalictus sphecodoides and the native syrphid Melangyna viridiceps were the primary pollinators, and fruit-to-flower ratios were 0.35, indicating that Bitou Bush would have ready pollinators if its range expanded inland. Synthesis. Invasive Bitou Bush requires pollinators, and this is effected by a range of generalist pollinators in eastern Australia including the Bitou Seedfly, introduced as a biocontrol agent, and the major pollinator detected in this study. Fruit-to-flower ratios were highest when the Bitou Seedfly was in high abundance. This study underscores the importance of evaluating the pollination biology of invasive species in their native ranges and prior to the introduction of biocontrol agents.