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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

This Week at EBCL

 

7 November 2010

A lot has happened in the past few weeks.  Shortly after Dan Strickman returned to his duties in Beltsville at the end of September, Kim Hoelmer, the new EBCL Director, arrived in early October, and is settling into his new position.  Scientists and technicians are busy tying up the season’s research, as well as preparing for meetings here at EBCL and abroad - all this amidst a background of autumn colors and Indian summer weather. 

In an exciting research development, Walker Jones (now at ARS Stoneville, MS) has successfully reared a European egg parasitoid collected by Marie Roche on the stink bug, Piezodorus sp., from a pestiferous stink bug in the U.S.  It’s still early, of course, but perhaps we have a new biocontrol agent for American stink bugs.  Time will tell.

In October Dominique Coutinot organized and hosted a meeting at EBCL attended by Xavier Langlet (French Ministry of Agriculture), the French national expert for organic farming and for alternative pest controls, and about 10 other researchers from several agencies, including INRA and CSIRO.  The meeting was an opportunity for key researchers involved in biological control in the south of France (Montpellier, Toulouse and Antibes) to discuss upcoming French regulatory changes dealing with the introduction of non-indigenous macro-organisms into French territory for scientific purposes.  Tours of local containment facilities, including EBCL and neighboring CSIRO quarantines, were also conducted.  The essential goal of the visit was to help ensure that the needs of the biocontrol community will be preserved under the new French regulations.  Issues raised in the meeting will be summarized in an official report that will be consulted during development of new legal documents relevant to biological control next summer.  Obviously, this meeting was critical for the continued success of EBCL programs, and Dominique deserves accolades for his foresight and leadership in the French regulatory arena.

Coordinated by Marie-Claude Bon, EBCL staff members have been busy preparing for a two day meeting next week at EBCL when we will host scientists from two INRA research units in Antibes.  INRA is the French government’s agricultural research organization – roughly equivalent to USDA-ARS.  Scientists at Antibes and EBCL share a number of common research interests and targets, and this meeting will be an opportunity for everyone to meet, exchange ideas, and initiate future collaborations of mutual benefit.

Last week EBCL hosted a visit by 32 M.S. students from SupAgro, the French agricultural research and teaching institute in Montpellier.  Two of EBCL’s technical staff, Matthew Augé and Mélanie Jeanneau, joined EBCL scientists in presenting their research and answering students’ questions. The visit by SupAgro students (who receive degrees in Plant Protection and Environmental Studies and who are searching for 6-month research internships next summer) is an annual event that provides a pool of well-trained and highly motivated interns for EBCL scientists, as well as increasing the visibility of EBCL to the French research community.  This year’s visit was organized by Marie-Claude, and we appreciate her leadership in managing this visit by the largest-ever group of SupAgro students.

René Sforza just returned from two joint meetings last week - the Western Regional Biological Control Meeting (W-2185) and the Northern Rockies Invasive Plant Council meeting on Invasive Species in Natural Areas – both held in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.  René gave a progress report on medusahead, French broom, and the European grapevine moth, and met with collaborators to discuss these projects.  EBCL cooperator Massimo Cristofaro (BBCA, Rome) discussed genetics and behaviour of thistle flea beetles. Dan Strickman, Director of the ARS Overseas Biological Control Laboratories, also attended and gave an overview presentation on the ARS overseas labs.

In other news, EBCL recently hosted visits by several scientists.  Christelle Geudot, a post-doc in Peter Landolt’s lab (ARS Wapato), spent a day discussing chemical ecology research with Livy Williams and others at EBCL.  Gavin Ash, a plant pathologist at the Wagga Wagga campus of Charles Sturt University in Australia, visited to discuss collaboration and sabbatical opportunities at the lab.  Régis Babin (CIRAD-Montpellier), who conducted his Ph.D. studies in Cameroon on cocoa mirid biology and management, visited with Arnaud Blanchet, Marie-Claude Bon, Livy Williams and Kim Hoelmer, also to discuss potential collaborations.  At EBCL we always appreciate visits from stakeholders, researchers, and students, so if you’re ever in the south of France and can pull yourself away from the wine, cheese, and beaches for a few hours, stop by and see us!

That’s all the news that’s fit to print from EBCL - till next time, Livy and Kim

 

Livy Williams, III

Research Entomologist

Kim Alan Hoelmer, Ph.D.

Director - European Biological Control Laboratory

 


4 October 2010

 

4 October 2010

For most of us the field season is winding down and we’re turning our attention to other activities, including lab studies and preparation for meetings. Autumn is definitely in the air here – temperatures are perfect but October, our wettest month, was ushered in right on cue by rain showers over the weekend. As most of you know, Dan has returned to Beltsville so I will serve as Acting Director until Kim Hoelmer arrives next week. In the meantime, I will do my best not to run the ship aground.

Last Monday we had a farewell luncheon for Dan. It was a very pleasant occasion, with lots of great cheese and homemade dishes. Most importantly, it gave us at EBCL the chance to express our gratitude for his leadership, guidance, and friendship these past five months. We hope he enjoyed his time at EBCL as much as we enjoyed having him.

On Thursday, 30 September, we finished our fiscal year. Xavier Leprieur, our chief Administrative Officer, is responsible for balancing the EBCL budget – a challenging task given the constant and unpredictable fluctuations in exchange rate. This is always a nerve-wracking day for Xavier, but in the end he worked his magic and we came out in the black.

Marie Roche shipped egg parasitoids reared from a European species of the stink bug, Piezodorus, to Walker Jones at Stoneville. The wasps arrived happy and in good condition, and Walker is now in the process of rearing them up. Livy Williams, Javid Kashefi (EBCL Thessaloniki, Greece), and Arnaud Blanchet submitted a proposal to USAID to initiate studies of olive fruit fly and its parasitoids in Albania.

Travel news. Dominique Coutinot has returned safely from Brazil where he was invited to participate in the Brazilian Congress of Entomology, and tour EMBRAPA’s quarantine facility. René Sforza left on Saturday for Bulgaria, where he has on-going studies with scientists at Plovdiv University.

Last Thursday was Julie Ripoll’s last day at EBCL. Julie was a Master’s student at the University of Montpellier and worked with Marie-Claude Bon. Julie studied the genetic diversity and life history traits of Solanum elaeagnifolium in relation to its invasiveness. We all wish Julie the best of luck in her future endeavors, i.e., finding gainful employment.

Till next time, Livy

 

Livy Williams, III

Research Entomologist

USDA-ARS European Biological Control Laboratory

 


27 September 2010

 

27 September 2010

The grapes near the lab have been harvested, there’s a bit of fall color, and the weather has turned decidedly cool. This morning, my last one here as interim director, I turned over the soil in my little garden plot and took a look at Hortus Mountain that used to be occupied by Neanderthals. It has been a busy and very enjoyable five months here and I hope that those of you who have not had a chance to visit EBCL can find an opportunity. Thanks for taking a look at this weekly newsletter.

Dominique Coutinot is in Brazil right now to participate in a Round Table at the Brazilian Congress of Entomology entitled “Importation and Application of Natural Enemies for Biological Control—Is it a Rocky Road?” Dominique’s talk is “Prospecting Biological Control Agents Abroad for Real—Is it Still Possible?” Juan Briano, Director of the South American Biological Control Laboratory, will give a talk at the same Round Table entitled “Exchanging Natural Resources for Biological Control in Argentina”. Dominique will go on the visit EMBRAPA’s quarantine facility outside Sao Paulo. We’re grateful to EMBRAPA for funding this visit.

Dominique has arranged for an important discussion of the wording of the French “decree” which will follow from a law passed on handling of non-indigenous macro-organisms. This discussion will involve the principle authorities involved with regulation of non-indigenous macro-organisms and take place at EBCL.

The edition of the Dossiers de l’Agropolis on biological control edited by René Sforza (http://www.agropolis.org/pdf/luttebio/Dossier_LutteBio_Eng.pdf) has been downloaded 35,171 times according to Xavier Chataigner, our computer person.

In another milestone, the two five-year project plans for EBCL were certified by OSQR this last week. This was a big achievement for the lab in the midst of American personnel changes, many thanks to Livy Williams who kept things moving. The staff of EBCL came together well to make cohesive plans that performed the purpose of integrating the efforts of many into cohesive projects.

Franck Hérard and Nathalie Ramualde have made some progress in the laboratory studying the parasitoids of the citrus longhorned beetle. They have been documenting basic bionomics of the larval stage by measuring head capsule width of the parasitoids. They were also successful in getting Asian longhorned beetle and citrus longhorned beetle to oviposit on agar. One of the next projects is to compare the chinensis form of CLB with the malasiaca form currently raised at EBCL.

Guy Mercadier has been working with Jacques Fargue to preserve the INRA collection of entomopathogenic fungi. EBCL is purchasing a new liquid nitrogen system that will reduce labor and increase security of such collections. Discussions are under way now with Richard Humber at USDA ARS ARSEF in Ithaca about how to handle the transfer. Jacques Fargue is the last of the INRA entomologists involved in this field, and now that he has retired there was concern that the collection would be lost.

René Sforza went to Copenhagen last week for the 6th NEOBIOTA Conference (Biological Invasions in a Changing World from Science to Management). He gave a talk entitled “Can chrysomelid beetles control the invasive Vincetoxicum spp. (Apocynaceae)?” co-authored by Y. Garnier, Matthew Augé, and Olivier Simonot. The answer was a qualified “yes” following additional specificity tests.

Finally, and very significantly, US Fish and Wildlife Service concurred with the safety of the release of a scale insect, Rhizaspidiotus donacis, for biological control of giant reed (Arundo donax) in Texas. One of the concerns was potential effect on salt grass (Spartina alterniflora), a key species for the habitat of the whooping crane. Data developed by John Goolsby at the Beneficial Insects Research Unit, Weslaco, Texas, had shown that this was not a significant possibility. The scale insect was discovered in Europe by EBCL’s retired staff member and current contractor, Alan Kirk.

Have a great week,

Dan

Daniel A. Strickman, Ph.D.

Interim Director, European Biological Control Laboratory (26 Apr - 28 Sep 2010), Montpellier, France, tel: +33-4-99-62-3020.

Acting Director, Overseas Biological Control Laboratories.

National Program Leader.

 


20 September 2010

 

Franck Hérard came back from testifying at the European Food Safety Agency meeting in Parma. The subject revolved around a request to reduce the amount of time that bonsai trees need to be isolated in order to be sure that longhorned beetles are excluded. The results of the deliberations will be influenced by Franck’s first-hand knowledge of these pests – useful incidental impact from biological control studies.

Arnaud Blanchet is starting up some experiments suggested by Charlie Pickett of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Livy Williams is working with Arnaud as he gets into the world of olives. We are hoping that this approach will result in more impact from EBCL studies, as well as contributions to the scientific literature. Olivier Simonot has set up traps for seed predators of medusahead rye in the very rare patch of it west of Montpellier, near Clermont l’Herault. Marie Roche is continuing her work with the European species of the stink bug, Piezodorus. One parasitoid has resulted from exposure of very few egg masses and Walker Jones is working on the permit to get it shipped to Stoneville.

We had the next series of talks from the summer’s crop of five graduate students. Yves Tindon, graduate student at Supagro, Montpellier, and mentored by René Sforza reported on his work with Steve Novak at Idaho State University in Boise (“Research and Characterization of Populations of Taeniatherium-Caput medusae in Western North America”). He reviewed the genetic structure of example populations, seeing that the division into three groups seen in the old world is not observed in the US, where the majority are the Asperum form. Annelise Riquier from the University of Pau worked under the supervision of Sandy Smith, University of Toronto, and René, spoke on “Impact of Simulated Herbivory for Biological Control for Vincetoxicum in Temperate Forests of the Eastern US and Canada.” Among her other findings was synergistic damage from root and foliar feeding.

Hope you folks have a good week – this is my last full week here in France before I go back to my normal job in Beltsville. Kim Hoelmer will be taking over as director on 7 October.

Daniel A. Strickman, Ph.D.

Interim Director, European Biological Control Laboratory (26 Apr - 28 Sep 2010), Montpellier, France, tel: +33-4-99-62-3020.

Acting Director, Overseas Biological Control Laboratories.

National Program Leader.

 


14 September 2010

 

There was good news on the student front this past week, as both Julie Ripoll (University of Montpellier 2) and Matthew Augé (University of Marseille) passed their oral thesis defenses for their master’s degrees. The work of both students will result in publications, Julie’s on the genetics of silver leaf nightshade and Matthew’s on the biology of the potential biological control agent of Vincetoxicum, the chrysomelid Chrysochus.

EBCL sent some more shipments last week. Dominique Coutinot sent parasitoids of Lygusto Newark via JFK International Airport. He has been using a freight broker (Fauna & Flora) there very successfully during the last year. Guy Mercadier is sending some fungal strains to the Swiss Bee Research Center, Bern. They had lost these strains and wanted to replenish their supply.

We have had some good interaction with the organization that helps the various agricultural research institutions in Montpellier communicate, the Agropolis. Dominique is writing an article on regulation of the movement of organisms for an issue of The Agropolis Dossiers (http://www.agropolis.fr/publications/dossiers-thematiques-agropolis.php) on biodiversity. I gave a talk organized by Agropolis at the University of Montpellier entitled “Ecological Services: Living with Biting Insects.” It was my first attempt to give a talk in French and I think the audience is still puzzling over the result.

Hope you have a good week,

Daniel A. Strickman, Ph.D.

Interim Director, European Biological Control Laboratory (26 Apr - 28 Sep 2010), Montpellier, France, tel: +33-4-99-62-3020.

Acting Director, Overseas Biological Control Laboratories.

National Program Leader.

 


7 September 2010

 

Today we had a practice run through Matthew Augé’s master’s degree presentation, which he does officially tomorrow at the University of Marseille. The title is (roughly translated) “Specificity and Bio-ecology of Chrysochus asclepiadeus (Col., Chrysomelidae) and Abrostola asclepiadis (Lep., Noctuidae), Potential Biological control Agents for Vincetoxicum spp. (Apocynaceae) Invasive in North America.” Matthew’s data showed that Chrysochus is fairly specific on the target weeds and that Abrostola is more polyphagous. His study of movement of Chrysochus showed how the beetle does not seem to fly any great distance and that most individual beetles do not go further than 15 meters from their points of release.  Last week, Matthew and René repeated the experiment under natural conditions in the Jura, finding similar results.

Marie-Claude Bon and the master’s student with whom she is working, Julie Ripoll, presented a poster at the ECOLOGIE 2010 colloquium here in Montpellier. The conference was attended by over 900 people, most from France. Co-authors included Walker Jones, Javid Kashefi, and Randy Coleman. Its title was “Contribution About the Genetic Diversity and Life History Traits Relative to Invasiveness of the Yellow Morelle, Solanum elaeagnifolium, in the Context of Biological Control” (another rough translation). This poster covered three studies: ploidy of the plant, population genetics of the Greek invasive populations (from Texas, not Argentina and genetically diverse), and growth charactertics showing differences in root structure.

Franck Hérard completed his last trip of the summer to Italy, assembling data on where the egg parasite of the citrus long-horned beetle is located and where it is not. The eggs that had been exposed in the field are being dissected now and he hopes to learn more about the life characteristics of the parasitoid.

Dominique Coutinot and I were given a tour of the “Entente Interdepartementale pour la Demoustication du Littoral Mediterraneen,” the highly organized mosquito control effort protecting coastal populations along the Mediterranean in France. They have developed a state of the art insect quarantine facility and were asking Dominique’s advice on structure and procedures. They were interested in ARS work on the Asian tiger mosquito and on biting midges.

Finally, I am attaching our group photo, taken this morning following the inauguration of our remote control gate system (thanks to Bertrand Berton).

The folks are (left to right):

Xavier Chataigner, Dan Barcea, Franck Hérard, Mélanie Jeanneau, Dominique Coutinot, Livy Williams III, Marie Roche (peeking above Livy’s shoulder), Xavier Leprieur, Farida Bentir, Matthew Augé, Fatiha Guermache, Olivier Simonot, Dan Strickman, Sarah Hague, Guy Mercadier, Nathalie Ramualde, Arnaud Blanchet, Marie-Claude Bon, Julie Ripoll, René Sforza, and Bertrand Berton.

EBCL Staff

 

Daniel A. Strickman, Ph.D.

Interim Director, European Biological Control Laboratory (26 Apr - 28 Sep 2010), Montpellier, France, tel: +33-4-99-62-3020.

Acting Director, Overseas Biological Control Laboratories.

National Program Leader.

 


August 2010

2 August - 9 August - 16 August - 23 August - 30 August

2 August 2010

EBCL’s “People’s Garden” is coming along nicely. I’ve seen egg plants, green beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes coming out so far. You can tell who has been gone on leave or travel from the weeds.

The first wave of vacation-takers have returned, and with them Xavier Leprieur. Many know him as the one to contact first in the laboratory for any administrative or money question. Another person you may contact often, our secretary, Sarah Hague, has just left for two weeks on her vacation time.

This is a busy time for our students, as they must finish their projects and get them written up within the next two months. There are six students associated with EBCL this summer and we are looking forward to their presentations. Because their schedules are so tight, we will have to hear their stories one by one just before they each defend their theses. René Sforza reported that the work from a student last summer, Dorothy McGuire out of Sandy Smith’s laboratory at the University of Toronto, has been accepted as a publication in Biological Invasions.

Franck is in Italy again this week, with probably only one more trip this summer to get the egg parasitoid of Anoplophoralong-horned beetles. Italy added some more money to this project, which is of course a big help for EBCL’s budget.

The big news of the week was administrative. The two project plans  (one weeds, one insects) received “moderate revision” ratings, which places us well on the way to having approved plans like any other ARS laboratory. I should point out that the South American Biological Control Laboratory also received a “moderate revision” rating and the Australian Biological Control Laboratory received a “minor revision” rating. We also got confirmation that Kim Hoelmer will be able to take over as EBCL director – very welcome news indeed!

 

Daniel A. Strickman, Ph.D.

Interim Director, European Biological Control Laboratory (26 Apr - 28 Sep 2010), Montpellier, France, tel: +33-4-99-62-3020.

Acting Director, Overseas Biological Control Laboratories.

National Program Leader.

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9 August 2010

Franck Hérard is continuing his transport of citrus longhorned beetle infested trees to Italy as sentinels for egg parasitoids. It takes a team to accomplish this, with Nathalie Ramualde, his technician, back in the quarantine laboratory and Valeria Todeschini, a master’s student, working on rearing out the parasitoids. Valeria recently got certification to work in the quarantine facility on her own and Franck got additional funding from Italy to continue the project next year.

Dominique Coutinot has begun a series of trips within France to collect nymphal parasitoids of Lygus. This work does not require quarantine and has been part of a very integrated effort between New Jersey, Delaware, California, and Morocco. Marie Roche returned from Spain with just a few parasitoids of the green stinkbug, but these specimens were busily laying eggs in egg masses of the bugs, hopefully multiplying their numbers. One sentinel egg mass is showing signs of parasitoid infestation and she expects a collaborator to send her some of the egg masses that were left as sentinels.

Guy Mercadier has been looking into the possibility of bringing the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) collection of entomopathogenic  fungi to EBCL. INRA is less interested in doing this kind of work and since EBCL already has a repository, our laboratory might be the logical place to preserve the collection. Guy worked out what equipment would be needed and INRA is looking into how it would support the effort.

René Sforza just had a co-authored paper come out in Journal of Applied Entomology, which is about the use of DNA markers to detect cryptic species of mealybugs (Malausa et al. 2010. Doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0418.2009.01495.x). Marie-Claude Bon’s student, Julie Ripoll, just had a poster accepted for presentation at the National Colloquium of the Science of Ecology (ECOLOGIE 2010), to be held here in Montpellier in early September. Julie has been working on the genetics and growth characteristics of silverleaf nightshade, an invasive weed in southern Europe and North Africa.

Finally, on the Greek front, Javid Kashefi just got back from Trabazon, Turkey, where the 2 nd International Workshop on Invasive Alien Species in Mediterranean Type Climates of the World was held. He presented the mission and work of EBCL at the meeting, as well as the work on silverleaf nightshade and other weeds. Javid reported that there was a lot of interest from North African countries, where silverleaf nightshade can be a tremendous problems for pastures and natural landscapes. Javid is also planning some fly (house fly and stable fly) work in Greece.

Hope your summers are productive – attached is a group photo at EBCL’s “People’s Garden.”

Daniel A. Strickman, Ph.D.

Interim Director, European Biological Control Laboratory (26 Apr - 28 Sep 2010), Montpellier, France, tel: +33-4-99-62-3020.

Acting Director, Overseas Biological Control Laboratories.

National Program Leader.

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16 August 2010

I’m sure we are all hoping for Walker’s speedy recovery from the heart attack he suffered on Sunday. Tough to see this happen to someone we know so well and who we depend on in many ways.

This week Javid Kashefi is making another trip from Thessaloniki to Tirana in Albania. He will be making some collections along the way, but the main purpose is to coordinate what we hope will be a significant project on olives in that country. We think we can offer some techniques that will improve yields from their largely untreated groves. In turn, we suspect that Albania has much to offer us from its isolated and ancient olive trees.

Our participation in a large European bar coding effort called DAISIE is continuing, as Melanie Jeanneau continues getting sequences from members of Bracon, a genus of wasps in which CDFA is interested for control of olive fruit fly. Fatiha Guermache is working Massimo Cristofaro and Lincoln Smith on the genus Cosmobaris (Curculionidae), a potential biological control agent of Russian thistle. This project involves extraction of DNA from single legs of specimens which are later identified morphologically. A French national institution called GENOSCOPE , located near Paris, performs the sequencing from the extracted DNA.

Alan Kirk returned from Spain (near Alicante and Motril) where he met Weslaco’s Patrick Moran. They set up field experiments to observe behavior of what has been a difficult-to-rear cecidomyiid biological control agent of Arundo. Working with CIBIO, University of Alicante, and Elena Cortes-Mendoza, they saw that the Lasiopterafly oviposited and pick up a symbiotic fungus when relative humidity was very high. These observations will be used to try to improve rearing back in Mission, Texas.

Marie-Claude Bon and Julie Ripoll’s experiment to compare growth characteristics of silverleaf nightshade from different areas hit a snag when the plants failed to produce flowers in the quarantine facility. Plants of course have their own requirements, but considering the vigor of these plants in Greece, Morocco, and other countries where it has become established in the Mediterranean basin, it is ironic that it needs such careful cultivation in the greenhouse. Not surprisingly, no one has written much about how to make this weed grow better.

After long delays, William Meikle finally received samples of Pseudomonasbacteria from EBCL that are suspected of having killed bees during experiments with Beauveriato control Varroa. He is trying to solve the problem he had in one of the trials with this otherwise promising biological control agent of the mite. The delays were caused by permitting and by preparation of facilities in Texas.

Finally, Franck Hérard received the honor of being invited to present scientific advice on the citrus longhorned beetle (Anoplophora chinensis) to the European Food Safety Authority. The meeting will take place in Parma on 14 September. It is a nice example of how USDA ARS work directed mainly at the benefit of the US also benefits Europe.

 

Daniel A. Strickman, Ph.D.

Interim Director, European Biological Control Laboratory (26 Apr - 28 Sep 2010), Montpellier, France, tel: +33-4-99-62-3020.

Acting Director, Overseas Biological Control Laboratories.

National Program Leader.

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23 August 2010

Just like the proverbial duck that looks calm above the water but is paddling like crazy below, Xavier Leprieur, our administrative manager, has been making sure that our budget comes out to the right level at the end of the fiscal year. With just a little over five weeks to go, it looks like it will be okay even if the exchange rate throws us surprises. That was a skillful job and we don’t take it for granted.

Dominique Coutinot has been doing some successful trips within France to collect nymphal parasitoids of Lygusfor potential use in China, New Jersey, and California. The collections in the Gers Departement are the first ever made there, with some hope that the parasitoids will be preadapted to coastal conditions. Dominique has long experience with Lygusand received help in rearing the material from Arnaud Blanchet, who usually takes care of the olive parasitoids. At the end of September, Dominique goes to Natal, Brazil for the XXIII Brazilian Congress of Entomology. He was invited by EMBRAPA to talk about regulation of the movement of macroorganisms and also to visit their quarantine facility in Juaguarina, near São Paulo.

We are working with USDA ARS Newark, DE, the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), and Seoul National University to arrange collection of Neodryinus typhlycybae, a parasitoid of the citrus flatid planthopper (Metcalfa pruinosa). Both are native to the United States, but relatively rare. INRA has done extensive work on this invasive pest and its biological control.

Franck Hérard is completing his last trip of the year to Italy. The miniature forest he had planted is largely depleted now, the trees having served their purpose as substrates for Anoplophoraeggs for capturing parasitoids of the citrus longhorned beetle.

Marie-Claude Bon and Julie Ripoll were a little surprised to see their silverleaf nightshade plants finally flower in the quarantine lab, following five months of cultivation. Now there is a chance of checking genetics and growth characteristics of a larger number of related plants.

Finally, we hear that Walker Jones is doing very well and that he is back at home.

Best wishes,

Daniel A. Strickman, Ph.D.

Interim Director, European Biological Control Laboratory (26 Apr - 28 Sep 2010), Montpellier, France, tel: +33-4-99-62-3020.

Acting Director, Overseas Biological Control Laboratories.

National Program Leader.

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30 August 2010

The EBCL People’s Garden was featured in ARS and Youthis month! (Thanks to Marie Roche for organizing the garden.)

(Click on the image to go to the pdf file)

Around ARS

Also in general news, we honored this year’s crop of master’s students with a luncheon on Friday. They are Camille Twomey and Annelise Riquier (Vincetoxicum, University of Toronto, working with René Sforza), Matthew Augé (Vincetoxicum, University of Marseille, working with René Sforza), Julie Ripoll (silverleaf nightshade, University of Montpellier, working with Marie-Claude Bon), and Valeria Todeschini (citrus longhorned beetle, University of Milan, working with Franck Hérard). Camille left for Canada on Saturday, so she was the first to present her results to the lab. The title of her talk was “Shading Effects on Adult Chrysochus asclepiadeus (Col.: Chrysomelidae) herbivory of Vincetoxicum spp (Apocynaceae).”

The luncheon was the occasion to have some of our colleagues from CSIRO over to the lab. José Serin, Mireille Jourdan, Janine Vitou, and Andy Sheppard came by, as did two alumni from EBCL, Alan Kirk and Ruxton Villet. Andy Sheppard and I had a good chance to discuss possibilities for future relationships between EBCL and CSIRO.

Kim Hoelmer received a parcel of parasitoids from Lygus nymphs, sent by Dominique Coutinot from his recent trips to Gers and Drôme Departments. Here at EBCL the first Peristenusadult emerged from the Gers material on Friday. The town of Auch is the capital of Gers Department and the first location of the EBCL in 1919.

Marc Epstein from CDFA and Todd Gilligan from Colorado State University visited earlier in the week to catch tortricids for taxonomic studies. René Sforza set them up with two organic vinyards and accompanied them in case anyone wondered about the strange blue glow from their black light traps. René knows a thing or two about grape pests – in fact he is co-author of the book, Ravageurs de la Vigne (Grape Pests). EBCL bought a portable generator for the work, which CDFA generously helped fund. Marc and Todd were happy with their collections here, and went on to Italy to complete their field collections in southern Europe.

Some of you may have heard about the current outbreak of West Nile virus disease in Greece that has killed about 10 people in that country. The work that Alexandra Chaskapoulou did last summer was the basis for the government to quickly allow spraying with two aerially applied pyrethroids in an attempt to protect people from infection. Alex worked with Javid Kashefi and used EBCL-Greece facilities to do the work, a cooperation with her school, the University of Florida, and advised by Dr. Phil Koehler. She will graduate with her Ph.D. in October and go to EBCL-Greece in November, where she will be a University of Florida post-doc funded by the Department of Defense.

Franck Hérard completed his last collecting trip of the summer in the area of Como, Italy. Nathalie Ramualde and Valeria Todeschini are dissecting eggs from sentinel trees this week to compile results.

Have a great week!

Dan

Daniel A. Strickman, Ph.D.

Interim Director, European Biological Control Laboratory (26 Apr - 28 Sep 2010), Montpellier, France, tel: +33-4-99-62-3020.

Acting Director, Overseas Biological Control Laboratories.

National Program Leader.

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July 2010

6 July - 12 July - 19 July - 26 July

6 July 2010

Franck Hérard returned from the Milan, Italy area this week with a first set of sentinel maple trees containing citrus longhorned beetle eggs (Anoplophora chinensis). This species is similar to the Asian longhorned beetle and a concern to Italy, which is funding this work. The sentinel trees were grown here at EBCL and exposed for two weeks at four sites in Italy known to have produced a specific egg parasitoid of the citrus longhorned beetle, Aprostocetus anoplophorae. After exposure, the trees are held in the quarantine greenhouse here in Montpellier, the tree bagged so that emerging parasitoids can be captured. Significantly, post-hibernating individuals of the parasitoid emerged in quarantine as adults from host eggs that were previously collected in May 2010 at the end of the larval diapause of the parasitoid. These parasitoids will be used for behavioral and life history studies. Yet another set of 18 sentinel maples trees containing freshly laid citrus longhorned beetle eggs was prepared in quarantine to be exposed on July 6 thin several sites in Italy for a study on the geographic distribution of the egg parasitoid. Hauling these trees back and forth, working with Italian authorities and students, keeping a colony of the beetle in quarantine to provide eggs, and identifying the parasitoids is an ambitious piece of biological control work. The successful discovery of the parasitoids in Italy suggests that looking in the native range of an invasive pest is not the only way to find candidate biological control agents.

The team led by Marie-Claude Bon added a French sample to the genetic collection of silver leaf nightshade. This weed is a real problem in southern Europe and northern Africa, but a native to the southwestern US and much of Latin America. Working with her master’s degree student, Julie Ripoll, Marie-Claude went to Vic la Guardiole to find the only known infestation of the weed in France. Other samples have come from Greece (Javid Kashefi), Texas (Randy Coleman), Argentina (Juan Briano), and Australia (Matthew Purcell). The objective of Julie’s research is to describe the population genetics of the weed where it is a problem in Greece, hopefully tracking its origin and increasing the chance of developing successful biological control. This project supports the ARS goal of supporting international food security.

Javid Kashefi and our collaborator at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Dr. Anastasia Lagopodi, have been working with Dana Berner at the USDA ARS Foreign Disease-Weed Science Research Unit at Fort Detrick, Maryland, on a couple of projects. One of these is development of Puccinia punctiformisfungus as a biological control agent of Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense). They found native plants infected with the fungus in Greece and are harvesting the material for propagation.

Finally, Fatiha Guermache and Mélanie Jeanneau prepared posters describing projects they have done in collaboration with Marie-Claude Bon and a number of French and USDA ARS cooperators. Fatiha’s poster is about ploidy of the Vincetoxicum nigrum and rossicum invasive weeds, using flow cytometry with the help of our French research neighbor, CIRAD. She showed that there was no difference in ploidy between native and invasive populations. Mélanie applied a very recent technique using 454 pyrosequencing to find microsatellites for population genetic studies of Ceutorhynchusweevils that are candidate biological control agents of Lepidium invasive weeds (white top or pepper grass). This was the first time this technique was applied to a biological control agent and it proved to be more efficient and productive than the usual method. You can take a look at these posters on the EBCL website within the next couple of days ( http://www.ars.usda.gov/Main/site_main.htm?modecode=02-12-00-00 ).

 

Take care and stay cool,

Daniel A. Strickman, Ph.D.

Interim Director, European Biological Control Laboratory (26 Apr - 28 Sep 2010), Montpellier, France, tel: +33-4-99-62-3020.

Acting Director, Overseas Biological Control Laboratories.

National Program Leader.

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12 July 2010

Last Monday Xavier Leprieur and I had a chance to visit the US Consul General, Kathleen Riley, in Marseille. We described the functions, advantages, and challenges of EBCL in a three-page briefing package and received a lot of questions in return. As you might expect from someone without an agricultural background, much of what EBCL does was new to Consul Riley, but she was interested and impressed with the potential for interaction with French institutions and with American visitors. She had already heard about USDA’s “Feed the Future” initiative because of the emphasis on international cooperation. For EBCL, it was most important for us that she knows how we can interact with people important to her. I think it also must be a positive message that USDA ARS makes this serious investment in international research.

A couple of welcome visitors came to EBCL last week. First were a group from Agropolis International, the umbrella organization that facilitates coordination and communication among the many research institutions in Montpellier. Mdm. Claudine Soudais represented the office that helps foreign scientists and researchers, and Mdm. Chantal Salson represented their technical and scientific information office. They saw EBCL from top to bottom, opening up what was clearly a new world of entomology for them. Later in the week, Marie-Claude Bon hosted Dr. Jean Nguya K. Maniania, an insect pathologist from ICIPE in Nairobi, and Dr. Jacques Fargue, a very recently retired INRA insect pathologist. In addition to more specific discussions with Marie-Claude, we discussed the future of the pathogen collection here at EBCL and the possibility of adding Dr. Fargue’s old collection. As throughout ARS, the fate of significant collections is a problem involving the balance between resources and need. Finally, William Meikle, former USDA ARS scientist at EBCL, stopped by with his family for a brief visit. He certainly was warmly received by everyone.

Our Canadian visiting student, Camilla Towney, reported that her small Vincetoxicum plants were defoliated by a potential biocontrol agent. René Sforza made more collections from this invasive weed, going to the Jura Mountains, as well as completing the shipment of Lobesia botrana(European grape berry moth) from all over Europe to Dr. Kent Daane at UC Berkeley. Julie Ripolle, a French student working with Marie-Claude Bon, finished some of the sequencing on silver leaf nightshade from Argentina. Javid Kashefi in Thessaloniki is just starting some preliminary work on the life cycle of olive psylla, a direct result of Charlie Pickett’s (CDFA) visit several weeks ago.

Franck Hérard, his Italian student, Valeria Todeschini, and his technician, Nathalie Ramualde, took another set of 18 sycamore maples (Acer pseudoplatanus) to Milan and Brescia, Italy. These trees had been freshly infested in quarantine with eggs of the citrus longhorned borer (Anoplophora chinensis). The trees are exposed for two weeks in areas infested with the CLB as a way to collect eulophid egg parasitoids (Aprostocetus anoplophorae). At the same time, they picked up the previous set of sentinel trees. Meanwhile, back at EBCL, studies are being conducted on the effects of temperature and humidity on the parasite, in order to work out the best means of rearing it.

Dominique Coutinot, our quarantine officer, arranged for the audit of EBCL by a firm that specializes in such service for the General Directorate of Civil Aviation. This audit is part of the certification process for EBCL as a “Known Packer” for shipments by air. The occasion for the recertification was an upgrade to new European Union standards. We passed.

Finally, our own René Sforza won the 6 km foot race sponsored by our larger neighbor, CIRAD.

 

Daniel A. Strickman, Ph.D.

Interim Director, European Biological Control Laboratory (26 Apr - 28 Sep 2010), Montpellier, France, tel: +33-4-99-62-3020.

Acting Director, Overseas Biological Control Laboratories.

National Program Leader.

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19 July 2010

Although you would not find many people here if you visited this week, it has actually been quite busy in the laboratory and the field. Today Marie Roche departed for Grenada, Spain to expose the eggs of the green stink bug to parasitoids. This trip developed some new associations for EBCL in Spain and involved months of preparation. It supports some work that Walker Jones is continuing and crosses over to Marie-Claude Bon’s project proposed for the next five-year cycle. Patrick Moran (USDA ARS Beneficial Insects Research Unit, Weslaco) is visiting Spain to do further studies on the biology of the difficult-to-colonize biocontrol agent of Arundogiant cane, Lasioptera donacis (Diptera: Cedidomyiidae), where he will be joined later this week by Alan Kirk from EBCL. Working with Franck Hérard, Dr. Gaylord Desurmont, Cornell University, finishes up his 10 days at EBCL studying oviposition behavior of the virburnum leaf beetle (Pyrrhalta viburni), which occurs as a native species in this area. Finally, the much anticipated arrival of our new American scientist, Livy Williams, occurs this Tuesday night.

Matthew Augé, a master’s student interning with René Sforza, worked with Olivier Simonot to release 300 individually marked chrysomelid beetles in a large plot out back of the lab. The plot had been studded with 38 target plants (Vincetoxicum, an invasive pest of northeastern forests) in concentric circles. A week of daily counts has already shown that the beetles move 15 meters from the release point, as well as many other interesting observations on behavior and survival. This difficult experiment is going well, though Matthew limped a bit following his weekend rescue of a little girl from a rapidly flowing river. The same invasive weed was targeted by a shipment of the noctuid moth, Abrostola clavissa, to Lindsey Milbrath at USDA ARS Biological Integrated Pest Management Research Unit, Ithaca, NY. Valeria Todeschini and Nathalie Ramualde got the second of two afternoon sessions on quarantine from Dominique Coutinot, which is part of a standard program of training at EBCL resulting in certification to use the quarantine facility.

We received confirmation of the impact of EBCL’s work from the state of Montana, which has declared a success against knapweed by biological control. The complex of 13 insects introduced over a period of over a decade involved many contributors, including CABI and Montana State University. Lincoln Smith (USDA ARS Invasive and Exotic Weeds Research Unit, Albany, CA) and Rouhollah Sobhian (former EBCL-Greece, now retired) provided details on ARS contributions. Paul Dunn (retired), Sara Rosenthal (deceased), and Gaetano Campobasso (deceased) evaluated the moth Pterolonche inspersa, and the weevil, Bangasternus fausi. Norman Reese (retired) worked on a fly, Urophora quadrifasciata, in conjunction with Jim Story of Montana State University. Rouhollah Sobhian, working in Greece, discovered Bangasternus fausti and the very important agent, Larinus minutus.

Marie-Claude Bon returned from the European Weed Research Society’s meeting in Budapest. She gave an oral presentation on Vincetoxicumand displayed two posters. The meeting was an occasion to make contacts in weed science but outside of biological control. One of the posters reported on the use of cell sorting techniques to evaluate chromosome numbers (ploidy) of the source and invasive populations of the weed, showing polypoidy in both. The other applied a new technique involving intense sequencing with the 454 pyrosequencing machine to find microsatellite markers more efficiently. This was the first time that this technique was applied for biological control and it generated a lot of interest at the meeting.

Franck Hérard is continuing his intensive project to evaluate parasitoids of the citrus longhorned beetle in Italy. As potted maple trees are infested in quarantine at EBCL, he is exposing another set of 18 sentinel trees in Italy from 20 July through 3 August. Aprostocetus anoplophorae (Hymenoptera:  Eulophidae) could be an important biological control agent as an egg parasitoid and biological studies of its fecundity and longevity are being conducted at EBCL.

Hope your summer is going well,

Daniel A. Strickman, Ph.D.

Interim Director, European Biological Control Laboratory (26 Apr - 28 Sep 2010), Montpellier, France, tel: +33-4-99-62-3020.

Acting Director, Overseas Biological Control Laboratories.

National Program Leader.

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26 July 2010

William Meikle headed back to the US after a couple weeks with his family here in Montpellier. It was a great opportunity to discuss the background of the EBCL and potential for its future. Although a couple of people have come back from vacation (Arnaud Blanchet and René Sforza), things are pretty quiet still with Dominique Coutinot, Marie-Claude Bon, and Xavier Leprieur on leave this week. They are all “reverse commuting” on vacation, as much of the rest of Europe seems to be in Montpellier. Livy Williams and family got here last week. He has an office, laboratory, email address ( lwilliams@ars-ebcl.org ), cell phone number (from the US: 011 33 6 20 74 01 15), and office number (011 33 4 99 62 30 45) – as well as appointments with real estate agents, the Prefecture, the bank…

Franck Hérard was in Italy last week on his fourth visit funded by MINOPRIO to develop an egg parasitoid of the citrus longhorned beetle. In the meantime, Nathalie Ramualde is working in the quarantine laboratory doing laboratory tests of the valuable specimens of parasitoids that have been recovered so far. She has seen parasitism in the laboratory, which is a good sign, but there is much to do before having a vigorous colony.

Matthew Augé and Olivier Simonot are continuing the counts of Chrysochus beetles (Chrysomelidae) in the plot of Vincetoxicuminvasive weeds outside. They are still counting about 80 beetles per day out of the 300 released two weeks ago. That work will be part of the report they make at the Colloquium of the Biology of the Insect, to be held 18-20 October in Lyon. Camilla Twomey is making behavioral observations on Chrysochusas well. The number of beetles per plant developed by Dorothy McGuire last summer at EBCL helped Camilla design the experiments. Camilla and Dorothy come from Sandy Smith’s laboratory at the University of Toronto.

Guy Mercadier is looking into improvements in our insect-pathogenic fungus collection. Some of the directions may include use of an automatic liquid nitrogen system, expansion of the capacity, and integration of INRA collections made by Jacques Fargue. This effort is part of addressing the challenge of preserving and using collections. Next the insects?

In Greece, Javid Kashefi is getting materials from the University of Florida to do some testing of stable flies. The plan for silver leaf nightshade is to do mapping of its distribution in northern Greece, with the Benaki Institute’s Maria Kati doing southern Greece. Eventually we hope to be able to detect this highly invasive week (from the Americas) by remote sensing. Javid will be presenting his work in Greece and a summary of EBCL at the Control of Mediterranean Invasive Plants meeting in Turkey on August 1.

 

Daniel A. Strickman, Ph.D.

Interim Director, European Biological Control Laboratory (26 Apr - 28 Sep 2010), Montpellier, France, tel: +33-4-99-62-3020.

Acting Director, Overseas Biological Control Laboratories.

National Program Leader.

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June 2010

7 June - 14 June - 21 June - 28 June

7 June 2010

(Thanks again to Marie-Claude BON for writing this week’s newsletter).

Last Friday, Franck Hérard returned from Italy with Valeria Todeschini, a student from Milano University to collaborate in studies on the parasitoids of Anoplophora chinensisduring a 4-month internship at EBCL. For the first time, Franck is organizing, with the help of Nathalie Ramualde, a shipment of ALB larvae to the UK for experiments on sound detection to be conducted by Dr Dave Chesmore. Unexpectedly, progress has been made in organizing a shipment of the CLB-form chinensisfrom China to EBCL. If shipment can be made, acceptance testing of the eggs of this form by Aprostocetus anoplophoraeoriginating from CLB-form malasiaca from Italy will be tested for the first time.

Also, this week another student from the University of Toronto (Sandy Smith is the professor), Camille Twomey joined the lab to work with René Sforza on Swallow worts. Proposal for René’s oral presentation entitled “Can chrysomelid beetles control the invasive Vincetoxicumspp. (Apocynaceae)?” at the Neobiota 2010 to be held in Denmark has been accepted.

Arnaud Blanchet returned from his trip to Guatemala where he has been transferring two colonies of Psytallia lounsburyifor mass-rearing at the APHIS fruit fly facility. He helped people there identify the causes of failure in their first attempt. Then he made several visits in different spots in California including CDFA and UC Berkeley to meet people with whom he has been interacting these past years for the olive fruit fly project. He offered to make a presentation of this trip to  the Lab. Charlie Pickett should be coming to EBCL, maybe together with Kent Daane, after his trip to Spain to collect Olive psylla.

This week, Dominique has been exploring and collecting in Morocco, in the area of Meknes, Ifrane and Melli Mella. The collections of Peristenus relictus, a biocontrol agent ofLygus sp., are intended for shipment to New Jersey Department of Agriculture for further mass rearing.

Next week, Franck Hérard and René Sforza will be in Italy and Turkey respectively. Under the aegis of the year of Biodiversity, Guy Mercadier and the student Matthew Augé have rescued from mowing in front of the lab, several orchids. The plants are most likely Bee orchids (Ophrys apifera), a temperate climate orchid that is relatively common locally but nevertheless has a protected status in some other regions in Europe.

Daniel A. Strickman, Ph.D.

Interim Director, European Biological Control Laboratory (26 Apr - 28 Sep 2010), Montpellier, France
tel: +33-4-99-62-3020.

Acting Director, Overseas Biological Control Laboratories.

National Program Leader.

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14 June 2010

This was my first week back at EBCL following almost three weeks away. The place still looks very green, thanks to what I am told have been unusual amounts of rain for this time of year. Wild flowers aren't as dramatically abundant as before, but there are some new ones around and there is still a pretty good show. As you might imagine, the vacation season is heating up with the weather and there is now a volley ball court complete with tons of imported sand on the city's central square (Place de la Comedie).

Franck Hérard was in Italy this week, having taken citrus longhorned beetle infested sentinel trees for exposure to potential natural enemies. The Italian government has cut many trees infested with this invasive beetle, making it necessary to intentionally expose infested saplings in order to make the collections. Franck has an Italian master's student from the University of Milan working with him until the end of September, Valeria Todeschini. René Sforza was in Turkey, again looking for natural enemies of medusahead rye. He also had a master's student arrive, Camille Towney, from Sandy Smith’s lab at the University of Toronto. She has already set up a field trial with Vincetoxicum.

On 10 June, Marie-Claude Bon attended a special session of the General Assembly of Agropolis International, the umbrella organization of Montpellier that includes many national French institutes. EBCL is a member of Agropolis and was therefore entitled to an official vote on the question of whether or not to admit INSERM, the French national medical research institute. INSERM was admitted unanimously, creating a new direction for Agropolis toward the implications of agriculture on human health, particularly in the area of nutrition. Marie-Claude also heard about Montpellier's bid to become the location for CGIAR's main offices, which includes providing a new building. It was gratifying to see that the brochure describing the advantages of Montpellier included the mention of USDA as one of the principal international partners in Agropolis. Agropolis International maintains a web site with significant summary publications on agricultural themes, most recently on GIS and on the partnership with Brazilian Labex. You can download English versions from www.agropolis.fr.

Dominique Coutinot returned from a very successful trip to Morocco. He attended the 7 thCongress of the Moroccan Association of Plant Protection, where he was able to strengthen old contacts and make new ones. He presented two papers, one on biological control of Lygusbugs and the other on international regulations concerning biological control. Following the conference, he did collections in collaboration with Moroccan counterparts in the northern and southern parts of the country. These collections produced several significant results, including new country records and first collections of Lygusin Morocco from one of its weedy hosts, Chenopodium album. The Lygusnymphs are in the EBCL quarantine this weekend, hopefully resulting in some new populations of Peristenus braconid parasitoids. Dominique also received the official certificate from the French Civil Aviation Directorate, granting EBCL a new permit number good until 30 June 2014 that updates the agreement according to European Union standards.

Hope you all have a good week.

 

Daniel A. Strickman, Ph.D.

Interim Director, European Biological Control Laboratory (26 Apr - 28 Sep 2010), Montpellier, France, tel: +33-4-99-62-3020.

Acting Director, Overseas Biological Control Laboratories.

National Program Leader.

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21 June 2010

Our own “People’s Garden” is starting to look like something now. Egg plant, fennel, basil, beans, okra, lettuce, carrots, and LOTS of tomatoes are in the 20 rows watered by soaker hoses. Eight “jardiniers” are participating, including Dan Barcea, a first time gardener and our security guard. Other activities on the large plot of EBCL land (about 4 acres) behind the laboratory include an ambitious experiment on movement of the natural enemies of Vincetoxicumover hundreds of meters that involves 300 individually tagged beetles, our simple but much used greenhouses, and Franck Hérard’s forest of experimental trees for the longhorned beetle project.

Charlie Pickett from the California Department of Food and Agriculture was visiting this week. His purpose is to find potential biological control agents of the olive psyllid, which is actually a group of several species in the Mediterranean region. One of these species was recently discovered in California, raising concerns for the state that they have another imported, key pest. Working with Alan Kirk in the field, Dominique Coutinot on quarantine procedures, and Arnaud Blanchet in the lab, Charlie collected the psyllids from a number of groves and individual olive trees in the Montpellier area (attached picture is the village of Pueschambon, taken from an infested and abandoned olive grove). On Friday he was headed off to Spain to get more specimens over the weekend, accompanied by Javid Kahshefi. Javid flew in from our satellite laboratory in Thessaloniki, Greece, to help Charlie, learn more about olive psyllids for exploration work back in Greece, and to have a chance to talk about other potential projects on grapes and olives in the Balkans.

Following several months of collecting the winter moth all over France, Joe Elkington left EBCL headed back to the University of Massachusetts. He is working up new strains of a parasitoid that used to be more effective against this forest pest. It took Joe a lot of patient effort to find areas with infestations, but he managed to get sufficient material in northeastern France. Joe was a pleasant and quiet presence here and it was nice to be able to make an indirect contribution to solving this problem by providing him with facilities and shipping.

René Sforza’s trip to Turkey was productive. Working with commercial and progressive farmers in Cappadocia (central part of the country), he worked out an arrangement to establish trial plots. This will be of great benefit for the medusahead work, as well as for many of the weeds of interest to the Bureau of Land Management. Collecting medusahead rye, René once again found that the plants were severely affected by fungus, though tests by USDA ARS scientists at Fort Detrick have shown a lack of sufficient specificity for the pathogens discovered so far. He was able to find a chrysomelid beetle on medusahead rye that he had not seen before.

Take care,

Daniel A. Strickman, Ph.D.

Interim Director, European Biological Control Laboratory (26 Apr - 28 Sep 2010), Montpellier, France, tel: +33-4-99-62-3020.

Acting Director, Overseas Biological Control Laboratories.

National Program Leader.

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28 June 2010

We had a good report from Charlie Pickett of the California Department of Food and Agriculture that his collections from Spain with Javid Kashefi and from France with Alan Kirk worked out well. The material was hand carried with permits and given directly to Charlie’s collaborator at UC Berkeley, Kent Daane. They say that they’ll get approximately 200 parasitoids from mummies of the olive psylla. Material that Charlie left behind for preparation and development will be shipped out today by Arnaud Blanchet. We are thinking about more work with the olive psylla, which is an emerging problem in California and sometimes a pest in southern Europe. EBCL has also completed the money transfer to Israel’s Cohen Institute for production of Psytalliaparasitoids of olive fruit fly and for some specificity testing, so altogether there has been a lot of activity on olives lately.

René Sforza made a visit to a long-standing field site in Lyon that is located on an island used as the city’s water pumping station. The city is interested in biological inventories and it has been a convenient site to study Vincetoxicumin its native habitat. He also sent the samples of Lobesia (European grape berry moth) preserved for genetic studies to Kent Daane, who also received samples that Javid Kashefi collected in Greece and Albania.

Our interactions within Europe got several boosts this week. First, and many thanks to ARS Headquarters, we seem to have finally found the right administrative procedure for receiving funds from European partners. Currently, we have three projects that have provided these sorts of funds, which are welcome not only financially, but also because they make relationships firmer. Second, we had talks with the CSIRO laboratory next door, leading to some ideas for collaboration that may take advantage of our unique location in the consortium of French laboratories that make up the “Agropolis International.” Finally, Marie-Claude Bon, Arnaud Blanchet, Matthew Augé (master’s student working with René), and I visited INRA (Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique: National Institute for Agricultural Research) at their laboratory in Sophia-Antibes. This laboratory has an extensive program in insect biological control and invasion biology. It has collaborated extensively with EBCL in the past and currently uses the strain of Psytalliadiscovered by EBCL. It was clear that the scientists in this laboratory would be valuable partners scientifically in the future as well. In the afternoon we attended the successful thesis defense by a Ph.D. candidate who had been co-advised at the University of Nice by Marie-Claude.

We are continuing work with the Bureau of Land Management on a list of target weeds, with much of the work performed by our collaborator, Massimo Cristofaro of the Biotechnology and Biological Control Agency in Rome, Italy. Javid Kashefi also works with these weeds in the Balkans. John Simons of the BLM Montana State Office discussed our program and its contributions to biological control of weeds of interest. Separately, a different BLM office has obligated money for medusahead rye biological control research at EBCL.

That’s it for now—take care,

Daniel A. Strickman, Ph.D.

Interim Director, European Biological Control Laboratory (26 Apr - 28 Sep 2010), Montpellier, France, tel: +33-4-99-62-3020.

Acting Director, Overseas Biological Control Laboratories.

National Program Leader.

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May 2010

2 May - 10 May - 17 May - 24 May - 31 May

2 May 2010

I wanted to let you know that I arrived safely in Montpellier and completed my first week here. You can contact me directly in the office at 33 (country code) 4.99.62.30.20. I have my own EBCL email address at dstrickman@ars-ebcl.org , but I will be continuing to monitor my usual ARS email address closely. You can also call either Sarah Hague or Xavier Leprieur to leave me a message at 33.4.99.62.30.00. Cell phone calls are very expensive, but I have both my old number (240-463-0218) and a new French one (33.6.19.10.57.49). Please remember that we are 6 hours later than on the east coast.

On a personal note, it has been very easy to get along here. I have been taking the tram and bus to the lab from downtown, there are convenient little groceries around, and people either speak English or are very encouraging about my horrible French. As you might expect, the food is amazing.

Just like other ARS labs, the field season is beginning to warm up. René Sforza is off to Italy and Turkey for two weeks to look for natural enemies of medusahead rye and other targets. He'll be working with Massimo Cristofaro, our collaborator at BBCA in Rome. Franck Hérard is planning to return to Italy for his work on Asian and citrus longhorned beetles, as well as just having completed the planting of a small experimental forest on the back forty of the lab. Arnaud Blanchet is due to go to Guatemala at mid month to show APHIS how to rear olive fruit flies on artificial media. Alan Kirk continues his work as a contractor on Arundo for John Goolsby. And Marie-Claude Bon continues to evaluate the genetics of both insect and weed targets, as well as biological control agents. She is also working on a central research project using a couple of model species to try to make generalizations about genetics and suitability of biological control agents.

In Greece, Javid Kashefi has started an ambitious schedule of collections in the Balkans, directed at a number of weed targets, the European grape vine moth (Lobesia botrana), and mosquitoes. Things are changing rapidly for our operation in Greece, with formal associations with the Benaki Phytopathological Institute in Athens, the American Farm School, and, hopefully, Aristotle University (Thessaloniki) and Plovdiv Agricultural University (Bulgaria). Later this summer we will get our first full-time post-doc in Thessaloniki, through Department of Defense funding and the University of Florida.

I also wanted to mention a significant achievement by Dominique Coutinot, our quarantine officer. A couple weeks ago he arranged a two day workshop on quarantine and shipping practices for French regulators and action people. It led to good interchange, created continuity, made it more likely that we will be able to keep shipping material smoothly, and further established EBCL as a key player in this field in France.

We completed submission of the two five-year plans (weeds and insects), much thanks to help from the EBCL staff and Livy Williams. Livy did a great job of keeping the format straight, coordinating the process, and generally putting EBCL's best foot forward. He should be here permanently in the next couple of months following what turned into a one-year delay due to unavoidable problems with arrangements.

Walker Jones is now in Stoneville, MS, as Research Leader of the Biological Control of Pest Research Unit. You can reach him at walker.jones@ars.usda.gov or 662-686-5229. Good luck, Walker!

 

Daniel A. Strickman, Ph.D.
Interim Director, European Biological Control Laboratory (26 Apr - 28 Sep 2010), Montpellier, France
tel: +33-4-99-62-3020.
Acting Director, Overseas Biological Control Laboratories.
National Program Leader.

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10 May 2010

Last week was fairly quiet at EBCL (except for a test of the alarm system by Dan Barcea) with both René Sforza and Franck Hérard gone in the field. René is working with Massimo Cristofaro of the Biotechnology and Biological Control Agency (BBCA), a private company in Rome and one of our close collaborators. Volcanoes permitting, René should be back in a week, hopefully with material from Sardinia and Turkey.  Arnaud Blanchet got the permit from the Guatemalan government thanks to Pedro Rendón from the APHIS fruit fly production facility there, so Arnaud is on track for departure this Sunday on a mission to set up Psytallia (natural enemy of olive fruit fly) rearing in Guatemala.

We have been discussing several projects in more detail than just ideas, but not yet finalized. One is to hold our annual review in September, not only as an occasion to document accomplishments and activities, but also as a chance to highlight our program to other members of the agricultural community here. Another is to cooperate with the Greek Forestry Institute to test existing parasitoids in Greece against Emerald Ashborer in our quarantine facility, a project similar in concept to the one Franck does with Italy on the Citrus and Asian Longhorned Beetles. Finally, we are going to continue our colonies of Olive Fruit Fly parasitoids for the time being in anticipation of a project for their evaluation and release in Albania.

I had the opportunity to visit with a series of people at the US Embassy in Paris who are very important to us. The list of topics goes from security to financial management. I had the clear impression that Embassy support to EBCL is a priority and their subsequent responsiveness to questions has been very helpful. The Foreign Agricultural Service office is most relevant to us technically, so we look forward to a lot more communication with them.

This week (10-12 May) there is a major conference at the Corum in Montpellier, entitled “Emerging Vector-borne Diseases in a changing European eNvironment,” carefully crafted to use the acronym EDEN. EBCL has a poster at the conference co-authored with the Armed Forces Pest Management Board (AFPMB). We expect three important visitors during the conference: Dr. Graham White, Technical Consultant to USDA ARS and to the AFPMB; Lieutenant Colonel (USAF) Doug Burkett, Research Liaison Officer of the AFPMB and manager of the Deployed Warfighter Protection Program; and Dr. David Swayne, Center Director of the Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory and world authority on influenza.

I hope all of you have a great week.

 

Daniel A. Strickman, Ph.D.

Interim Director, European Biological Control Laboratory (26 Apr - 28 Sep 2010), Montpellier, France
tel: +33-4-99-62-3020.

Acting Director, Overseas Biological Control Laboratories.

National Program Leader.

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17 May 2010

This was a short week at EBCL thanks to a national holiday in France, Ascencion Day. Many people “make the bridge” and take leave on Friday as well. As a result, I had the bus to myself for a while on Friday, but once in town, the tramway was crammed with people going to a big event. Earlier in the week we had the EDEN annual conference in town. It is a gathering of entomologists, veterinarians, and epidemiologists who were funded during a five-year European project to examine the continent for vector-borne pathogens. The effort was very organized, often with standardized methods and close coordination between collaborating laboratories in many countries. Similar work was done in a less organized fashion in the US during the 1960s, and in that sense Europe is catching up. On the other hand, using modern methods, especially in genetics, and careful coordination seems to have resulted in a marvelous product. The meeting was the occasion for a visit from Lieutenant Colonel (USAF) Doug Burkett, Research Liaison Officer of the Armed Forces Pest Management Board; Dr. Graham White, Technical Consultant to ARS and the Deployed Warfighter Protection Program; and Dr. David Swayne, Director of the USDA ARS Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory. Drs. René Sforza and Marie-Claude Bon had a chance to describe their research, which of course generated a lot of interest. Dr. Swayne will be serving a one-year detail in Paris at OIE, so we hope to see him again. On Friday, Tony Caesar from the USDA ARS lab in Sidney, Montana, completed a visit to work with Marie-Claude Bon on a very interesting triad between a weevil, a fungus, and an invasive weed (Lepidium).

On invitation of the head the Office of Food, Sub-Directorate of Quality and Plant Protection (French Ministry of Agriculture), Dominique Coutinot participated in a meeting on May 11 at Angers , Département Maine-et-Loire . The subject of the meeting being the risks related to the dissemina tion of the insect pest Tuta absoluta (the tomato leaf miner, a gelechiid moth originally from South America). After the presentation of the biology of the insect, regulatory aspects, and the methods of monitoring, the methods of protection and ongoing research were presented, including the use of biological control agents.

René Sforza returned from his trip with Massimo Cristofaro to Sardinia and Turkey. The work succeeded in getting genetic material of both French broom (invasive in California and a challenge to identify correctly in its native range) and medusahead rye. They also found potential insect natural enemies of both plants and more examples of the fungus that attacks medusahead (Ustilago phrygica, thought to not be specific enough to be useful). If you would like to see a detailed trip report with pictures and maps, just ask René or me, or check out our website ( http://www.ars.usda.gov/Main/site_main.htm?modecode=02-12-00-00).

Arnaud Blanchet and his parasitoids of the olive fruit fly made it safely to Guatemala, where he will be helping Pedro Rendon of the APHIS fruit fly facility in El Pino to establish a Psytallia colony. Arnaud will then go to California for a visit with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, who need the parasitoid for their olive fruit fly biological control program. Guy Mercadier left for Cameroun this week to work with the University of Yaoundé on guinea grass (Panicum maximum), a project led by John Goolsby.

Finally, René Sforza is giving an invited seminar at the Buffon Institute, National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), on Thursday, 20 May. His seminar is entitled “Biological Invasion and Control: Little Murders Between Enemies,” and will describe the concepts of classical biological control using examples from work at EBCL (vine mealybug, medusahead rye, and Vincetoxicum).

Have a great week!

 

Daniel A. Strickman, Ph.D.

Interim Director, European Biological Control Laboratory (26 Apr - 28 Sep 2010), Montpellier, France
tel: +33-4-99-62-3020.

Acting Director, Overseas Biological Control Laboratories.

National Program Leader.

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24 May 2010

This week saw some of the first warm weather of the season. Botanically the flora are advancing in development as the spring wildflowers go off.

Medusahead rye is no exception. According to René Sforza, the season is about two weeks retarded from usual. The only small patch of the weed that is known in this area had well developed, but green, seed heads. René would like to find some more locations, but this grass that is a scourge in the western US, is a shy and retiring member of the plant community here. A diligent student, Yves, has spent many hours wandering through the nearby countryside looking, but so far more medusahead has not been fund. Those plants present look very healthy, but something must be holding them back.

René gave his invited talk at the Center for Agro-ecology of Cultivated Lands, National Institute for Agricultural Research, Dijon, and collected natural enemies from Vincetoxicum, a destructive invasive of forests in southeastern Canada and the northeaster US. Franck Hérard went to Italy to collect parasitoids from Asian and citrus longhorned beetle, leveraged by funds from Italy. Farther afield, Arnaud Blanchet is installing Psytalliaparasitoids of the olive fruit fly in the APHIS facilitiy at Los Pinos, Guatemala, with funding by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. In Greece, we had the pleasure of promoting Javid Kashefi to FSN 8, which makes him one of our senior technicians. Considering the major expansion in his activities and responsibilities, the promotion is well deserved.

Around the lab, Bertrand Bertron is saving the lab money by installing a new security gate that will allow greater flexibility for our guard staff. Marie Roche volunteered to organize EBCL’s very own People’s Garden, based on previous years’ success growing vegetables for stink bug projects. She has a farming background, knows what she is doing, and promises that the garden will depend on biocontrol.

Happy Whit Monday (24 May is a French National Holiday) and I will be in the US 22 May – 9 June.

 

Daniel A. Strickman, Ph.D.

Interim Director, European Biological Control Laboratory (26 Apr - 28 Sep 2010), Montpellier, France
tel: +33-4-99-62-3020.

Acting Director, Overseas Biological Control Laboratories.

National Program Leader.

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31 May 2010

(The newsletter was written this week by Marie-Claude BON – Many thanks!)

The field season is at its height although it is about two to three weeks later than usual. This has delayed the collection of weed materials such as Medusahead head rye for René Sforza or insects associated with weeds like Umolpusfor Swallow Worts (René’s project). This week, René has been trying to locate new sites for his weed targets. This phenological delay is also affecting crop plants like wheat as reported by Guy Mercadier and Marie Roche. Wheat is a host plant of the Russian wheat aphid and which both are actively searching for parasitoids after Keith Hopper’s request.

 

For the last 2 weeks, Franck Hérard has been in Italy where he has been working at evaluating the geographical distribution of Aprostocetus anoplophorae, an oophagous parasitoid of citrus longhorned beetle (CLB), and collecting diapausing larvae. He also gave an invited seminar at the “Region Lombardia” at Milan to present his main achievements as regards biological control of CLB. Lately, he has presented the new 3-yr Research Plan (2011-2013) for the biological control of CLB that has been set up in collaboration with the Minoprio Foundation, the University of Milan and the Plant Protection Service of Lombardia.

 

T he 7 thSymposium of the Moroccan Association for Plant Protection was held on May 26-27 at Rabat in Morocco under the aegis of the Agronomical and Veterinary Institute Hassan II where Dominique Coutinot gave two presentations. The first one was on the international and regional legislations and regulations for biological control, and the second on his project surveying Morocco for Peristenus parasitoids in view of biological control of Lygusin the U.S.

 

This week, Guy Mercadier returned from his trip to Cameroon where, with the help of a professor of Entomology of the Yaounde University, he explored and collected natural enemies on guinea grass (Panicum maximum), a project led by John Goolsby and initiated last year. At the same period, Cameroon was celebrating the 50 thAnniversary of their independence, a lot of officials were present at Yaounde; hotels were fully booked and traffic in the city and outer suburbs was very difficult. Nevertheless, Guy succeeded in getting genetic materials as regards natural enemies but also a significant number of new taxa, some of which might be of interest for biological control, some have to be clearly identified.

 

Javid Kashefi has made good progress with his two projects in cooperation with University of Thessaloniki. His efforts to pull together both Fort Detrick (Dr. Dana Berner) and Aristotle University to make progress on microbial control of Canada thistle are starting to pay off. He also met Dr Avtzis, an entomologist from the Hellenic Forest Research Institute, with whom he set up a new research plan for the emerald ash borer (EAB). Although the project is still in its infancy, they have already agreed on doing an inventory in Greece of the presence and distribution of the EAB as well as other Buprestidae that has never be done before.

 

After more than one year, our effort, in collaboration with Dr Rasplus (CBGP, France) to get barcode sequences from several taxa belonging to two genera - Braconand Cosmobaris- through the European Network for barcoding is finally paying off. Mélanie Jeanneau has prepared the shipment of sequencing plates for the National Sequencing Center.

 

Progress has been made per the website and the link between EBCL website and ARS-USDA website according to Xavier Chataigner. One good example is that it is possible now to have access to EBCL employee’s information directly from the REE directory.

 

Enjoy the Memorial Day

 

Daniel A. Strickman, Ph.D.

Interim Director, European Biological Control Laboratory (26 Apr - 28 Sep 2010), Montpellier, France
tel: +33-4-99-62-3020.

Acting Director, Overseas Biological Control Laboratories.

National Program Leader.

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Last Modified: 11/8/2010