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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Discovery, Biology and Ecology of Natural Enemies of Insect Pests of Crop and Urban and Natural Ecosystems
2013 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
Objective 1: Explore for natural enemies of insect pests (e.g., olive fruit fly, Lygus bugs), and wood borers (e.g., longhorned beetles and emerald ash borers) and other pests as identified as high priority targets by the ARS Office of National Programs.

• Sub-objective 1A - Discovery and collection of potential biological control agents for service to other laboratories that provide further development of the natural enemies. • Sub-objective 1B - Quantitative measurements and observations that lead to new documentation on biology of potential biological control agents and their hosts. • Sub-objective 1C - Genetic studies that enhance the chance of success with new biological control agents.

Objective 2: Identify, colonize and evaluate the most promising natural enemies and ship them to U.S. cooperators. Results of laboratory (including genetics and behavior) and field studies will be used to improve the ability to predict key factors for application to future programs.

• Sub-objective 2A – Identification, colonization, and evaluation of efficacy of biological control agents. • Sub-objective 2B – Documentation of life table parameters and biological characteristics. • Sub-objective 2C – Genetic parameters as predictors of successful biological control.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Biological control through the introduction of natural enemies continues to be one of the most effective, cheap, and environmentally safe solutions to problems created by introduced pests and invasive species. We propose to take advantage of the experienced staff, biologically strategic location, and excellent facilities of the European Biological Control Laboratory in Montpellier, France, and its satellite laboratory in Thessaloniki, Greece, to discover potential biological control agents, characterize them genetically, evaluate their efficacy, and describe relevant aspects of their bionomics. Scientific output from these efforts will include taxonomic, genetic, and biological descriptions of important species in the Palearctic and Ethiopian regions. The target species of these efforts will include the olive fruit fly, vine mealybug, the European grapevine moth, the diamondback moth, the olive psyllid, Lygus bugs, and Asian longhorned beetle. In addition, we will use model species (the southern green stink bug and the tarnished plant bug) to test the hypothesis that the success of parasitoid wasps as biological control agents can be predicted by examining genetic parameters.


3.Progress Report:
Explore for and characterize natural enemies of priority pests (Objective 1), we conducted foreign exploration for olive psylla in Spain, natural enemies of bagrada bug in Pakistan, Asian longhorned beetle parasitoids in Korea, cattle fever tick in Turkey, and by agreement (0212-22000-024-18S), parasitoids of spotted wing drosophila and brown marmorated stink bug in China. A survey designed to detect the presence of olive fly in Nepal was conducted to link Chinese populations with western distributions. Collaborative work with CSIRO (Australia) to discover natural enemies of the dubas bug, a key pest of dates in the Middle East, was also begun. Identify, evaluate, and colonize promising candidates for U.S. cooperators (Objective 2), we collected and shipped lygus bug parasitoids from France to U.S. cooperators for field release in California, with support from industry (0212-22000-024-14R). We continued surveys and collected parasitoids that attack the kudzu bug, and sent collections to ARS-Stoneville for host range studies. Molecular analysis showed that short- and long-winged forms of the parasitoid are probably two different species. Natural plant volatiles that attract European grapevine moth were tested to evaluate their utility in monitoring moth activity and management. A study was begun in collaboration with researchers in the U.S., Israel, Colombia, and China on the ovipositional response by omnivorous mirid bugs (that feed on both plants and insects) to plant host quality and insect prey availability. Reared substantial numbers of olive fly parasitoids for cooperators to expand the parasitoid’s establishment in California and studied its nutritional and behavioral ecology to improve rearing. Research with the Italian agency MINOPRIO (0212-22000-024-8T) supported efforts to establish an egg parasitoid of citrus longhorned beetle in Northern Italy. Continued collection of field samples for analysis of microsatellite markers of an introduced lygus parasitoid in our retrospective genetic analysis of US lygus biocontrol programs. Asian egg parasitoids of brown marmorated stink bug were characterized with species-specific markers and development of a microsatellite library of population markers for a principal Asian parasitoid was started. Interagency agreements 0212-22000-024-13I and -15I supported olive fly and stink bug projects. The American Farm School (MOU 0212-22000-023-11M) provides our Greek substation with lab and office space to facilitate exploration and field work in the Balkan region, including collaboration on sustainable olive fly management. An ancillary project (0212-22000-024-11T) involves DoD, university and Greek agencies in faunistic survey and population monitoring in northern Greece for sand flies and mosquitoes, including monitoring West Nile virus and malaria. Continued testing traps and other management approaches and provided training to Greek agencies. The overall impact of the laboratory’s research is that producers will have new biological control agents available that will help them manage key insect pests by reducing chemical pest management inputs, thereby maximizing profits and sustaining yield.


4.Accomplishments
1. Provided parasitoids of the olive fruit fly that have established in California to increase their dispersal. The olive fruit fly is a key pest of olives that can completely destroy a crop, reduce its quality, or lower yield. The pest became established in California in 2002 and has been the cause of significantly more application of insecticide to this crop. The European Biological Control Laboratory conducted studies in the Mediterranean basin, sub-Saharan Africa, and China to track the origin of olive trees and the most likely source of an effective parasitoid. This long-term study produced a number of parasitoids, including Psyttalia lounsburyi, a braconid that was introduced into California in cooperation with the University of California and the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Establishment of this parasitoid has required multiple introductions over a period of years. The mass rearing methods were designed by the European Biological Control Laboratory and had been conducted by a series of contractors, but were continued at EBCL during the 2013. This year it was reported that the parasitoid is well-established at two different sites in California. The establishment of this parasitoid will provide natural control of olive fruit fly in California and reduce the use of pesticide needed for this profitable agricultural industry.

2. Provided parasitoids of Lygus bugs to California organic strawberry growers. The USDA-ARS has worked with California strawberry growers and the University of California to develop an effective method to control tarnished plant bugs on strawberries without the use of insecticides. The method requires intercropping alfalfa between strawberry rows and populating the alfalfa with a braconid parasitoid discovered in France, Peristenus digoneutis. In 2013, the European Biological Control Laboratory collected bugs parasitized by the parasitoid from a population in Brittany where the climate matches the targeted strawberry production region in California, and shipped them to the quarantine facility of the ARS laboratory in Newark, Delaware. After the wasps emerged, they were sent to New Jersey’s Philip Alampi Beneficial Insect Laboratory in Trenton, New Jersey. Further rearing by the Alampi lab increased numbers available for shipment to California for release by the University of California, Santa Cruz. This series of events took place within one year and in time to help California farmers. In the future, organic production of strawberries may be more practical thanks to this procedure.

3. Molecular taxonomic research supports the development of biological control agents for brown marmorated stink bug. The invasive brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) injures a large number of crops throughout the United States and has no effective native natural enemies in North America. Molecular analysis of its Asian egg parasitoids, obtained by foreign exploration, successfully characterized the species of BMSB parasitoids in the genus Trissolcus that are currently available for evaluation in the U.S. and identified new cryptic species of natural enemies that could not be detected by morphological identification. The molecular analyses will help researchers accurately identify the natural enemies, and this will enable evaluations to determine the safety and suitability of these agents for potential field release. These egg parasitoids are important natural enemies of BMSB in Asia that should be well adapted for the U.S., and if released and established they are expected to cause significant reductions in BMSB populations.


Review Publications
Chaskopoulou, A., Dovas, C.I., Chaintoutis, S.C., Kashefi, J., Koehler, P., Papanastassoupoulou, M. 2013. Detection and early warning of WNV circulation in Central Macedonia, Greece using sentinel chickens and mosquitoes. Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases. doi:1089/vbz.2012.1176.

Last Modified: 10/30/2014
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