Biology, ecology, and management of Microtheca ochroloma (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) in organic crucifer production.
Organic vegetable production is a rapidly growing industry in the southeastern United States. The yellowmargined leaf beetle, Microtheca ochroloma Stål (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae), has recently become an important pest of organic and low-input crucifer vegetable production where growers are not permitted to use synthetic insecticides. Microtheca ochroloma was first reported in the United States in Mobile, AL, in 1947. Currently, it has been reported in nine southeastern states, with the potential for expansion to northern states because of its ability to withstand cold weather. Both adults and larvae feed voraciously on crops in the family Brassicaceae (e.g., arugula, cabbage, collard, mustard, radish, and turnip) and can cause complete crop loss. Despite the growing market demand for organic leafy greens, many organic growers in regions where the pest is predominant have reduced crucifer production owing to the vulnerability of their crops to M. ochroloma and lack of effective, organically compliant management tools against the pest. Here, we discuss the biology, ecology, and management tactics currently available against this invasive pest.