We measured the impact of Leptoglossus occidentalis on seed production in lodgepole pine, Pinus contorta variety latifolia Engelmann, using an antibody marker developed to detect residual saliva in fed-on seeds. Nymphs, adult females, and adult males were caged on cones during early, mid- and late season cone development. Individual analysis of 12,887 seeds extracted from 365 cones revealed that 37.3% seeds tested positive for seed bug saliva. The antibody assay was 38 times more effective than radiography at detecting seed bug damage. Radiography can detect partially emptied seed but cannot discriminate between aborted seeds and those emptied by seed bugs. The antibody marker was least sensitive in detecting early season damage compared with mid- and late season damage. We hypothesize that residual saliva in seeds fed on early in the season was either absorbed by the damaged seed or degraded over time. Early season feeding resulted in the greatest number of seeds fused to cone scales and the extraction efficiency for cones exposed to feeding during this time was reduced by 64% compared with control cones. Adding fused seeds to antibody-positive seeds raised the proportion of damaged seeds to 48.3%. At all stages of cone development, adult females were the most destructive life stage, damaging up to two seeds per day late in the season. When seed losses were adjusted to damage per degree-day, female damage was greatest early in the season, while males caused the same amount of damage regardless of cone development period. The results of the antibody assay provide baseline data for developing damage prediction formulae, and establish L. occidentalis as a potentially serious pest in lodgepole pine seed orchards.
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Vol. 95 • No. 4