The yellowmargined leaf beetle, Microtheca ochroloma Stål (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae), is an introduced pest of cruciferous crops in the southern United States, and arguably the most damaging pest of organic crucifer vegetable production in the region. Studies were conducted in the greenhouse and laboratory to investigate host finding and acceptance preference of M. ochroloma on four commonly grown cruciferous crops: cabbage (Brassica oleracea L. variety capitata), collards (B. oleracea L. variety acephala), napa cabbage [B. pekinensis (Lour.)], and turnip (B. rapa L.) First, adult beetles were allowed to choose among the four plants in a multiple-choice greenhouse cage experiment and host preference was evaluated by using three parameters: number of beetles on each plant, number of larvae on each plant, and plant damage ratings. The results showed that M. ochroloma adults actively discriminated among the four host plants, with significantly higher numbers recorded on turnip and napa cabbage than on cabbage or collards. Significantly higher numbers of larvae also were recorded on turnip and napa cabbage starting on day 10. Similarly, higher damage ratings were recorded on turnip and napa cabbage than on the remaining two hosts. Results of four-choice olfactometer experiments, which compared attraction of M. ochroloma to headspace volatiles of the four host plants, demonstrated that host preference is mediated primarily by plant volatiles. Both sexes were significantly more attracted to napa cabbage than to the remaining treatments, with turnip being the second most attractive plant. These results confirm that turnip and napa cabbage are two preferred host plants of M. ochroloma, and may support the development of a trap crop system and attractant-based strategies for managing M. ochroloma in crucrfer production.
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Vol. 40 • No. 6