Leafy Spurge Research
Two flea beetles, Aphthona nigriscutis and A. lacertosa, are generally thought to be the most successful biological control agents for leafy spurge. Adult populations of these 2 species have markedly different sex-ratios; most populations of A. nigriscutis are 90% or more females whereas A. lacertosa populations average about 50% female. Further, A. nigriscutis is infected by Wolbachia, an intracellular parasitic bacterium, whereas A. lacertosa is not. Wolbachia is well-known to alter the reproductive biology of its arthropod hosts and is found in many insects. Wolbachia may be responsible for the female-biased sex ratios in A. nigriscutis through mechanisms that could either increase or decrease the population growth rates of the beetles. Ongoing studies are seeking to determine the mechanism by which Wolbachia may be causing the biased sex ratios in A. nigriscutis using antibiotic and heat treatments, real-time PCR and other experimental approaches.
Contributing Scientist: David Kazmer (Entomologist)
Visit our TEAM Leafy Spurge website for hundreds of articles and other sources of information on leafy spurge and its management.
TEAM Leafy Spurge was a 6-year research and demonstration program that was highly effective at developing and demonstrating ecologically based integrated pest management (IPM) strategies that landowners and land managers could use to achieve effective, affordable and sustainable leafy spurge control. The system incorporated biological control agents with other more traditional management tools that led to not only a dramatic reduction in leafy spurge infestations, but also to significant reductions in herbicide use.