Preferences of the wheat bug (<i>Nysius huttoni</i>) for particular growth stages of the potential trap crop, alyssum (<i>Lobularia maritima</i>)
The New Zealand endemic wheat bug, Nysius huttoni (Hemiptera: Lygaeidae), is a pest of brassica seedlings. However, it has a wide host range comprising almost all cultivated brassicas, cereals and many other cultivated crops, as well as weeds. The brassica alyssum (Lobularia maritima) is a potential trap crop of N. huttoni, having the potential to keep the bugs away from seedlings. Laboratory no-choice and choice tests evaluated the relative preference of N. huttoni for two major growth stages of alyssum – vegetative and flowering. In both bioassays, N. huttoni adults settled significantly more promptly on the flowering than on the vegetative stage. The same preference was evident for adult numbers settling. Survival was higher on the flowering (38%) than on the vegetative stage (28%), although this was not significant. The implications of these findings are important in the design of trap cropping protocols for N. huttoni management. Flowering alyssum in brassica fields can also potentially improve pest biological control and provide other ecosystem services that can contribute to mitigating diminished ecosystem functions in agriculture.