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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Related Topics

Research Project: Systematics of Lepidoptera: Invasive Species, Pests, and Biological Control Agents

Location: Systematic Entomology

2012 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
The order Lepidoptera represents one of the greatest radiations of herbivorous animals on the planet. The research component of this plan focuses on the three most economically important families (or superfamilies) of this order, i.e., Noctuidae, Pyraloidea, and Tortricidae. Gaps in our knowledge of morphological, biological, and molecular characters, and the paucity of phylogenetic analyses within many groups in these families combine to slow progress on the development of identification tools for use in pest detection, exclusion, and management, and in the successful implementation of biological control projects. The primary focus of this plan is to remedy those shortcomings by making available to a broad audience tools, databases, and images that will facilitate identifications and research over a broad range of economically important taxa. Within the families/superfamilies Noctuidae, Pyraloidea, and Tortricidae, specific taxonomic groups are selected for revision based on the expertise within the Systematic Entomology Laboratory, the need for revisionary work, and the relevance of the group to American agriculture. Two of the systematic revisions proposed herein are long-term activities which will be completed during the current project. As with all projects in the Systematic Entomology Laboratory at Beltsville, this project also includes a service component that draws upon SEL experts to identify specimens for regulatory agencies (often on an urgent basis) and other research agencies and stakeholders, and maintain and enhance portions of the National Insect Collection. The objectives are: (1) determine species boundaries, describe new species, develop identification keys and illustrations, define relationships among taxa, and investigate host use and specificity of important moth species that are pests of, or beneficial to U.S. agriculture; (2) compile, organize, and post on the web electronic databases and images of primary types of important moth families; and (3) provide expert identifications of specimens submitted by stakeholders worldwide and manage assigned lepidopteran portions of the U.S. National Insect Collection.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
ARS will undertake research to generate morphological and molecular characters (DNA sequences) that will be used to test species concepts and hypotheses of relationship among agriculturally important moths. These data also will be used to develop new diagnostic tools (descriptions, illustrations, keys) to permit more rapid and accurate identifications. Databases containing scientific names, distributions, taxonomic literature, and host plant and specimen data pertaining to economically important moths will be expanded and disseminated to the user community. These and other taxonomic tools will be made accessible to the public via publications, the internet, and other electronic media. Timely and accurate identifications of moths will be provided, including those intercepted at ports-of-entry by APHIS-PPQ or submitted by a wide range of scientists and regulatory agencies. Portions of the National Insect Collection at the National Museum of Natural History, a vital tool for research and identification, will be maintained and enhanced.


3.Progress Report:
The text of the revision of the Heliothinae of the Western Hemisphere is 90% complete; illustrations of adults and genitalia are 50% complete. A phylogenetic analysis of the genera in the Heliothis group using 3 genes and a morphological dataset was conducted. The results were evaluated, and a manuscript was submitted. The status of the genus Chloridea was revised based on this analysis.

Draft diagnoses and descriptions (or re-descriptions) of all the species in 8 genera of North American Cochylini were prepared in support of a monographic treatment of this leaf-roller group of moths. Also, several samples were submitted for COI (“barcode”) sequencing.

In collaboration with several international colleagues, a paper was published presenting the first modern phylogenetic analysis of the family Tortricidae based on molecular data. The family comprises over 10,000 described species worldwide, including numerous economically important pests and several biological control agents.

Expert identifications of submitted insects were provided for customers and stakeholders, including 582 (totaling 1016 specimens) URGENT (same day) identifications and 580 (1,409 specimens) prompt and routine identifications. Portions of the National Insect Collection assigned to the scientists in the project were maintained and enhanced, with a species inventory of Pyraloidea completed.


4.Accomplishments
1. A monographic treatment of the North American (north of Mexico) members of two major groups of the family known as leaf-rollers was published. The monograph is over 325 pages long, and includes keys for identification, illustrations of anatomical features, and color photos of the adult moths. It deals with 84 different species, including a number of pests such as the Mexican leaf-roller, the omnivorous leaf-roller, and the tufted apple bud moth. The work will be of interest to pest managers, scientists studying biodiversity, and APHIS personnel at U.S. ports-of-entry.

2. Substantial progress was made on a monographic treatment of the Western Hemisphere members of moths of the subfamily known as sun-loving moths. The monograph is presently over 500 manuscript pages, and includes keys to the genera and species, color images of adults, and images of morphological characters. It documents over 170 species and includes major pests such as the corn earworm, tobacco budworm, and flax bollworm. The work will be of interest to ecologists, pest managers, and APHIS personnel at U.S. ports-of-entry.


Review Publications
Lam, W., Rota, J., Brown, J.W. 2012. Preliminary list of the leaf-roller moths (Insecta: Lepidoptera: Tortricidae) of Virginia with comments on spatial and temporal distribution. Banisteria. 38:3-37.

Manrique, V., Diaz, R., Overholt, W.A., Pogue, M.G., Vitorino, M. 2012. Description and biology of Paectes longiformis Pogue, a new species from Brazil (Lepidoptera: Euteliidae) as a potential biological control agent of Brazilian peppertree in Florida. Biocontrol Science and Technology. 22:163-185.

Wheeler, Q.D., Knapp, S., Stevenson, D.W., Stevenson, J.W., Raven, P.H., Wilson, E.O., Woolley, J.B., Solis, M.A. 2012. Mapping the Biosphere: exploring species to understand the origin, organization, and sustainability of biodiversity. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 10(1):1-20.

Miller, J.Y., Matthews, D.L., Warren, A.D., Solis, M.A., Harvey, D.J., Gentili-Poole, P., Emmel, T.C., Covell, Jr., C.V. 2012. A provisional annotated list of the Lepidoptera of Honduras. Insecta Mundi. 0205:1-72.

Brown, J.W., Powell, J.A., Kruse, J.J. 2012. The moths of America, north of Mexico, Tortricidae, Tortricinae (part), Sparganothini and Atteriini. In: Hodges, R.W., editor. Moths of North America, fascicle 8.1. Washington, D.C.: Wedge Entomological Research Foundation. p. 230

Razowski, J., Brown, J.W. 2012. Decriptions of new Tortricidae (Lepidoptera) reared from native fruit in Kenya. Zootaxa. 3222:1-27.

Pogue, M.G. 2012. The Aventiinae, Boletobiinae, Eublemminae, Pangraptinae, Phytometrinae, and Scolecocampinae (Lepidoptera: Noctuoidea: Erebidae) of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, U.S.A. Zootaxa. 3153:1-31.

Nieukerken, V., Kaila, L., Kitching, I., Kristensen, N., Lees, D., Mitter, C., Solis, M.A., Brown, J.W. 2011. Order Lepidoptera Linnaeus, 1758. Zootaxa. 3148:212-221.

Last Modified: 10/21/2014
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