Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Systematics of Beetles Important to Agriculture, Landscape Plants, and Biological Control

Location: Systematic Entomology

2012 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
ARS is interested in performing research to increase and enhance the understanding of the systematics of beetles (Coleoptera) important to agriculture, landscape plants, and the environment, especially flea beetles, wood-boring beetles, and lady beetles. Our Project Plan has four main objectives:.
1)Analyze morphological characters of Neotropical flea beetle genera and assemble those of value for accurately identifying adults;.
2)Discover new identification features of Neotropical longhorned woodboring beetle genera and develop new definitions based on these discoveries;.
3)Conduct generic revisions, investigate species boundaries, and analyze the higher classification of lady beetles using input from contemporary molecular and morphological based studies;.
4)Provide identifications of plant-feeding, woodboring, and predatory beetles, and other beetles of agricultural, economic and environmental importance.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
ARS will undertake the taxonomic research on agriculturally and economically important beetles by initially making use of many microscopic and imaging techniques. This information is used to assess homology and variation in their structural characteristics. New diagnostic tools such as descriptions, illustrations, and dichotomous and electronic identification keys will be developed using the latest software and imaging equipment available. These products will be made available to the public as hardcopy books, research papers, websites, and electronic identification systems. Timely, accurate identifications of beetles intercepted at ports-of-entry by APHIS-PPQ or submitted by scientists and regulatory agencies will be provided and relevant portions of the National Insect Collection at the National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution) will be curated and expanded.


3.Progress Report:
Significant progress has been made on flea beetle research. A manuscript was completed on a new genus and 5 new species of flea beetles from Puerto Rico. An overview of flea beetle diversity (53 genera and 351 species) in the Caribbean was provided. Research was conducted on a new genus and 4 new species of flea beetles inhabiting leaf litter in Central America. Flea beetles are important pests of various flowering plants and those inhabiting leaf litter are important components of forest floor ecosystems in the tropical and subtropical regions. Significant progress has been made on woodboring beetle research. A manuscript on the enigmatic species, Xixuthrus domingoensis was completed. This species occurs in Hispaniola, but all other close relatives are found in Asia. Although other authors placed this species in another genus, new characters were described suggesting that it be moved into Xixuthrus. A careful study of all the relevant type specimens was made to justify the new systematic placement. A manuscript on the Mexican genus Trichoxys was written and submitted for publication. Longhorned beetles are very important to agriculture and forestry due to their destruction of wood during their development. The groups dealt with in these studies are poorly known, not often collected, and their classification has been in a state of confusion. These works will enable scientists, forestry workers, port identifiers, and laypersons to make accurate identifications and use the proper names.

Significant research has been made on lady beetle research. Specimens of many of the wetland lady beetle species have been assembled and the DNA extracted. The molecular specialist who is collaborating on this research project has arranged access to a molecular laboratory to complete this study.  Specimens of North American Coleomegilla species have been assembled and studied, and distributional data compiled.  Illustrations of morphological features of Hispaniolan Mulsantina spp. have been completed.  Two research papers have been published: one on Bystus hirtulus, and one on Phaenochilus. All of these lady beetle studies will be of value to agriculturalists and researchers who want to identify them in order to determine their relative effectiveness in controlling insect pests, particularly exotic, invasive species. Significant numbers of beetle identifications have been made. In the period from October 1, 2011 to June 11, 2012, 3524 submittal lots (6679 specimens) were identified, including 1105 “urgent” and 606 “prompt” submittals for USDA-APHIS-PPQ of specimens intercepted on perishable commodities at ports of entry. “Urgent” identifications (those requiring same day turn-around of specimens intercepted on perishable commodities at ports of entry) have been processed daily as submitted. However, an increase in the number of submittals (particularly prompts) in the last 5 years has resulted in some accumulation of backlogs. These identifications are critical to prevent agricultural pests or invasive species from entering the United States and are also useful for other researchers in biocontrol and state extension agents.


4.Accomplishments
1. Research on North and Central American Diabrotica leaf beetles. Many Diabrotica species are among the most economically important leaf beetles, for example D. virgifera costs approximately 1 billion dollars to the U.S. economy annually. ARS researchers in Washington, District of Columbia developed a beta-version interactive identification key to all the species in North and Central America. This key will allow port identifiers, researchers, and agricultural extension personnel to identify these beetles and potentially prevent introductions or spread of pest species.

2. Systematics of the emerald ash borer and related species. The emerald ash borer, Agrilus planipennis, is a very significant invasive beetle killing ash trees in the United States. ARS researchers in Washington, District of Columbia, along with Forest Service collaborators in East Lansing Michigan and a collaborator in St. Petersburg, Russia completed and published a manuscript on the morphology and identification of the immature stages of the emerald ash borer. Prior to this study, the immature life stages were poorly known and had never been fully described and illustrated. This paper will be a valuable tool to aid in the rapid identification of this serious invasive pest beetle in the United States. Research on this invasive pest is being done as subordinate project #1275-22000-263-01R.


Review Publications
Chamorro, M.L., Volkovitsh, M.G., Poland, T.M., Haack, R.A., Lingafelter, S.W. 2012. Pre-imaginal Stages of the Emerald Ash Borer, Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire (Coleoptera: Buprestidae: Agrilinae): An invasive species of Ash (Fraxinus). Agricultural and Forest Entomology. 7(3):1-12.

Konstantinov, A.S., Konstantinova, A. 2011. New genus and species of flea beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Galerucinae: Alticini) from Puerto Rico. ZooKeys. 155:61-87.

Konstantinov, A.S., Linzmeier, A.M. 2012. A new genus of Neotropical Monoplatina (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Galerucinae: Alticini) from leaf litter. The Coleopterists Bulletin. 3260:19-32.

Poorani, J., Vandenberg, N.J., Booth, R.G. 2011. A revision of the genus Stictobura Crotch (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae: Sticholotidinae) and description of a new species of Sticholotis Crotch. Zootaxa. 3031:1-13.

Prathapan, K.D., Konstantinov, A.S. 2011. A new species group in Aphthona Chevrolat (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) with a description of a new species from southern India. Caucasian Entomological Bulletin. 65(4):329-334.

Last Modified: 10/1/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page