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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Related Topics

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

Location: Systematic Entomology

2011 Annual Report


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


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


3.Progress Report
A draft manuscript was completed on the North American members of the noctuid genus Schinia, which will include identification keys, illustrations of important morphological features, and photographs of adult moths.

An examination of the type specimens of the North American members of the pyraloid subfamily Epipaschiinae was completed.

Draft diagnoses and descriptions (or re-descriptions) of 20 genera of North American Cochylini were prepared in support of a monographic treatment of this leaf-roller group of moths.

Draft databases of the type specimens of all families of microlepidoptera deposited in the collection of the National Museum of Natural History were completed and submitted to the Smithsonian Institution IT personnel for vetting and eventual posting on the world wide web.

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

Substantial progress (90% complete) was made on a revision of the Paectes arcigera species group, which includes the description of six new species, one of which is being reared as a possible biological control agent of Brazilian Peppertree, an important invasive plant species in the southeastern U.S. and California.

Expert identifications of submitted insects were provided for customers and stakeholders, including hundreds of URGENT (same day) identifications and thousands of routine identifications. Portions of the National Insect Collection assigned to the SYs in the project were maintained and enhanced.


4.Accomplishments
1. A monographic treatment of the North American (north of Mexico) members of two major groups of the family known as leaf-rollers produced. The monograph was accepted for publication and is in its final stages of revision. The monograph is over 400 pages long and includes keys for identification, illustrations of anatomical features, and color photos of the adult moths. It deals with 84 different species, including a number of pests such as the Mexican leaf-roller, the omnivorous leaf-roller, and the tufted apple bud moth. The work will be of interest to pest managers, scientists interested in North American biodiversity, and APHIS personnel at U.S. ports-of-entry.


Review Publications
Dewaard, J.R., Mitchell, A., Keena, M.A., Gopurenko, D., Boyken, L.M., Armstrong, K.F., Pogue, M.G., Lima, J., Floyd, R., Hanner, R., Humble, L.M. 2010. Toward a global barcode library for Lymantria (Lepidoptera: Lymantriinae) tussock moths of biosecurity concern. PLoS One. 5(12):1-10.

Gilligan, T.M., Brown, J.W., Epstein, M.E., Passoa, S.C., Powell, J.A. 2011. Discovery of Lobesia botrana (Denis & Schiffermuller) in California: an invasive species new to North America (Lepidoptera: Tortricidae). Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington. 113(1):14-30.

Solis, M.A. 2011. Reassignment of four species currently in Herpetogramma Lederer (Spilomelinae) to Pyraustinae (Crambidae: Pyraloidea: Lepidoptera). Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington. 113(2):1-10.

Hoddle, M., Brown, J.W. 2011. Lepidoptera associated with avocado fruit in Guatemala. Florida Entomologist. 93:649-650.

Brown, J.W., Heard, T.A., Segura, R., Jadranka, R. 2011. Tortricid moths (Lepidopotera: Tortricidae) reared from the invasive weed Parkinsonia aculeta (Fabaceae), with comments on their host specificity, biology, and geographic distribution. Journal of Insect Science. 11(7):1-17.

Last Modified: 7/22/2014
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