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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Sterile Insect Control of Invasive Pests, with a Focus on Moths

Location: Crop Protection and Management Research

2011 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
1. Improve performance of the sterile insect technique (SIT) as an integrated control tactic against invasive and established lepidopteran pests by developing techniques that accurately measure field performance of released sterile moths and evaluating various laboratory and semi-field bioassays for their ability to predict field performance of sterile moths.

2. Advance the ability to integrate and monitor SIT in abatement/eradication programs against exotic/invasive Lepidoptera pests by developing methods and techniques to survey for the presence and density of both genders of target pest species, and to measure overflooding ratios and interaction of released sterile insects and wild insects; improving trapping and survey technology by developing calibrations that accurately predict pest population densities, trap efficiency, and efficacy of early detection programs for exotic pests; and, evaluating various marking techniques for identifying irradiated, released, and sterile moths and their interaction with the wild population, and measuring invasive pest movement and dispersal.

3. Increase our understanding of factors that affect insect pest invasiveness and establishment by examining and comparing mortality factors and host plant assemblages present in the insect pests’ native geographical range with the mortality factors and host plant assemblages present in the adventive geographical range and studying the ecology of invasive Lepidoptera pests to understand the role of voltinism, multiple strain introductions, flight propensity and capacity, and strain interaction with respect to dispersal and invasiveness.


1b.Approach (from AD-416)
We will conduct laboratory, greenhouse, and field research to improve the performance of the SIT as an integrated control tactic against invasive and established lepidopteran pests, advance the ability to integrate and monitor SIT in abatement/eradication programs against exotic/invasive Lepidoptera pests, and Increase our understanding of factors that affect insect pest invasiveness and establishment. This research, which emphasizes collaboration with State, Federal, and international cooperators, will result in improved management strategies for invasive insect pests that threaten U.S. agricultural and horticultural crops and natural ecosystems.

Invasive alien species are constantly threatening the abundant plant resources and the plant-based industries of the United States. Many of the most serious insect pests in the U.S. are introduced Lepidopterans. Action Agencies like the USDA-APHIS need pest control options and technologies such as the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) that are effective, environmentally-benign, and socially-acceptable in order to provide a rapid response to newly invasive lepidopteran species in agricultural, urban and environmentally-sensitive areas. The SIT has been a useful tactic for combating lepidopteran pest species; however, implementing the SIT against an invasive species requires a high level of organization, substantial funding, and a considerable knowledge of the biology and ecology of the invasive pest. Improved knowledge, control tactics, technologies, strategies and assays are needed to reduce the costs and increase the successful implementation of the SIT against invasive Lepidoptera.


3.Progress Report
Research activities and experimental trials were conducted to optimize sterile insect technique (SIT) and inherited sterility tactics to manage/exclude invasive and exotic lepidopteran pest species. A significant effort was directed toward the improvement of a USDA-APHIS control/eradication strategy for the Argentine cactus moth, an invasive pest in the United States and a recently established pest on islands off the coast of Quintana Roo, Mexico. As a result of our research and cooperative partnerships with USDA-APHIS, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), North American Plant Protection Organization, Florida Division of Plant Industry, and SAGARPA, Mexico, we continued developing and testing quality control bioassays, continued field trials to improve the pheromone lure for monitoring pest presence and population levels, improved handling and irradiation procedures for the SIT, and improved interstate and international shipping protocols that would preserve the quality of sterile moths to be used in SIT releases. The initial findings from these studies have been incorporated into the U.S. - Mexico Bi-National Program against the cactus moth. These findings and activities have contributed to the further reduction of established populations of this pest on Mississippi and Alabama barrier islands, in Louisiana bayous, and along the northwest Gulf coast of Florida, mitigating the further westward expansion of pest populations along the Gulf of Mexico. Other research activities have included the completion of a multi-year field study to evaluate the quality of sterile moths for lepidopteran SIT programs following trans-hemisphere commercial shipments. The work was conducted in South Africa using the codling moth as a model system with the cooperation of the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa and the IAEA.


4.Accomplishments
1. Control strategy mitigates the threat of the invasive Argentine cactus moth in the United States and eradicates the pest in Mexico. Subsequent to its detection in south Florida in 1989, the Argentine cactus moth expanded its range 50-100 miles per year along the Atlantic Coast and west along the Gulf Coast to the barrier islands of Mississippi and bayous of Louisiana, and has become an imminent threat to many Opuntia cactus species valued as a food, a forage, a wildlife habitat, and a major plant group contributing to ecosystem structure and biodiversity. Scientists from the USDA-ARS Crop Protection and Management Research Unit, Tifton, GA, in collaboration with USDA-ARS-CMAVE in Tallahassee, FL and USDA-APHIS, improved and refined survey methods and control tactics using field sanitation combined with sterile insect releases (SIT) along the leading edge of the invasion and at new outbreak locations. With the cooperation of ARS, USDA-APHIS and SAGARPA, Mexico continue to adopt and implement these methods and tactics in the operational program that is part of an ongoing U.S.-Mexico bi-national campaign against this invasive pest. Following the successful eradication of this pest from islands off the coast of Quintana Roo, Mexico, these tactics have contributed to the further reduction of established populations of this pest on Mississippi and Alabama barrier islands, in Louisiana bayous, and along the northwest Gulf coast of Florida, mitigating the further westward expansion of pest populations along the Gulf of Mexico.


Review Publications
Carpenter, J.E., Bloem, S., Taggart, S. 2010. Effect of rearing strategy and gamma radiation on fecundity and fertility of codling moth Cydia pomonella (Linnaeus) (Lepidoptera: Tortricidae). Journal of Applied Entomology. 134:221-226.

Blomefield, T.L., Bloem, S., Carpenter, J.E. 2010. Effect of radiation on fecundity and fertility of codling moth Cydia pomonella (Linnaeus)(Lepidoptera: Tortricidae) from South Africa. Journal of Applied Entomology. 134:216-220.

Hall, D.G., Shatters, R.G., Carpenter, J.E., Shapiro, J.P. 2010. Progress toward an artificial diet for adult Asian citrus psyllid. Annals of the Entomological Society of America. 103:611-617.

Jezorek, H., Stiling, P., Carpenter, J.E. 2010. Targets of an invasive species: Oviposition preference and larval performance of Cactoblastis cactorum on 14 North American Opuntioid cacti. Environmental Entomology. 39(6):1884-1892.

Last Modified: 12/22/2014
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