Tritrophic interactions between an invasive weed (Lepidium latifolium), an insect herbivore (Bagrada hilaris), and a plant pathogenic fungus (Albugo lepidii).
Perennial pepperweed, Lepidium latifolium L. (Brassicales: Brassicaceae), is an invasive weed that can form dense stands and displace native species. Bagrada hilaris Burmeister (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae) is a serious economic pest of Brassicaceae vegetable crops. Bagrada bug also feeds on L. latifolium and may interact with the plant fungal pathogen Albugo lepidii S.I. (Peronosporales: Albuginaceae) to affect biological control of L. latifolium. A series of laboratory experiments, including Y-tube olfactometer and host-choice tests, were conducted to investigate B. hilaris host-preference behavior. Adults were attracted to the odor of healthy L. latifolium compared with A. lepidii-infected leaves. Bagrada hilaris consistently preferred to feed on healthy L. latifolium when offered both healthy and A. lepidii-infected plants. Experiments were conducted to determine the effects of A. lepidii-infected L. latifolium on B. hilaris survival and development. Survival of all B. hilaris immature stages and adults was markedly reduced for those reared on A. lepidii-infected leaves. Total development time and stage-specific development were faster on healthy L. latifolium leaves compared with A. lepidii-infected leaves. In addition, the ability of B. hilaris adults to passively transmit the rust was studied. Our data demonstrated that B. hilaris could acquire the rust spores while feeding, but it did not passively transmit the pathogen to healthy plants.