Laboratory hybridization between the green lacewings Chrysoperla comanche (Neuroptera: Chrysopidae) and Chrysoperla rufilabris, predators of the Asian citrus psyllid.
Chrysoperla comanche (Banks) and its sibling species Chrysoperla rufilabris (Burmeister) are voracious predators of the Asian citrus psyllid, Diaphorina citri Kuwayama (Hemiptera: Liviidae), an invasive pest that vectors a bacterium responsible for the lethal and incurable citrus greening disease. The Comanche lacewing naturally occurs in Southern California, whereas C. rufilabris is currently one of only two commercially available green lacewing in the United States. These sister species can be separated by larval morphological traits, by differences in courtship songs, and possibly by three nuclear genes wingless, PepCK, ATPase, yet they are not distinguishable based on the mitochondrial barcode gene (COI). Releasing in a new area a biological control agent capable of hybridizing with a resident species may pose risks that range from local displacement to irreversible loss of genetic identity. Therefore, we performed no-choice laboratory crosses to assess pre- and postzygotic isolation. We show that fertile and viable hybrid progeny could be readily obtained in interspecific crosses and backcrosses and, although there is a trend toward lower hybrid fitness, postzygotic isolation is overall weak and might not prevent loss of genetic identity under natural conditions. It remains to be determined if differences in courtship songs will prevent hybridization in the wild, as shown for other green lacewings. We also report a low prevalence of Rickettsia infection in both species.