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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Research Project: IMPROVED TACTICS FOR INTEGRATED CONTROL AND CONTAINMENT OF CACTOBLASTIS CACTORUM

Location: Insect Behavior and Biocontrol Research Unit

2013 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
The broad objective of this project is to improve survey and control tactics for Cactoblastis cactorum (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae), an invasive cactus-feeding moth that has rapidly expanded its geographical range along both the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts, invaded the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, and threatens the Opuntia-based agriculture and ecosystems in the southwestern USA and Mexico.

Specific objectives of this project are: 1) to optimize trap efficiency and the pheromone lure;.
2)to improve implementation of the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT);.
3)to develop knowledge of additional control tactics that can be integrated into the containment of this pest at the leading edge of its geographical range; and.
4)the eradication of this pest at point infestations that may occur beyond the leading edge.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
The research and development approach will include: (1) conduct field studies to characterize factors affecting trap efficiency and to develop methods for trap calibration, (2) conduct laboratory and field trials to identify and evaluate additional sex pheromone components and pheromone blends for use as a trap lure, (3) conduct mark-release-recapture trials to evaluate the influence of storage and transportation protocols, release methodology, and release frequency on the competitiveness and dispersal ability of sterile moths, (4) evaluate the performance of filter colony and mass rearing protocols for improved sterile insect production, and (5) complete life table studies on C. cactorum and its natural enemies to identify mortality factors limiting population growth and to identify differences between the native and adventive ranges of the pest, & (6) make collections and establish colonies of native NA cactus-feeding Lepidoptera for use in host specificity tests of exotic natural enemies.


3.Progress Report:

This research relates directly to Objective 3. Develop and refine control strategies for invasive species infesting non-traditional agricultural settings, in particular the Argentine cactus moth and Chinese tallow.

This research is a continuation of ongoing collaboration in which ARS-Tallahassee has provided critical research and technology transfer to the USA-Mexico Binational Abatement Program Against the Invasive Cactus Moth Pest. The invasive cactus moth is native to Argentina and was found in Florida in 1989. Caterpillars of this moth eat prickly pear cactus and threaten the cactus-based agriculture and ecosystems in the southwestern USA and Mexico. The invasive Argentine cactus moth continues to spread in the southern U.S. attacking and destroying prickly pear cactus. Development and implementation of the sterile insect technique (SIT) along with host plant removal was successful at slowing the spread of this insect and eradicating outbreak populations on islands in Alabama, Mississippi, and Mexico. However, funding levels were reduced and became inadequate to sustain the area-wide program necessary to stop the moth’s spread. The program now emphasizes the development of more sustainable control tactics against this pest, including classical biological control and the disruption of pheromone communication systems. Scientists from the USDA-ARS Center for Medical, Agricultural, Veterinary Entomology, Tallahassee, FL, in collaboration with scientists from USDA-ARS-CPMRU, Tifton, GA, and FuEDEI (Fundación Para el Estudio de Especies Invasivas), Argentina, evaluated the potential for a native Argentine wasp to be a biological control agent of the cactus moth. The wasp attacks the larval stage of the cactus moth and was determined to be a new species to science. Field surveys and laboratory bioassays in Argentina have determined that the wasp has a narrow host range in Argentina. These scientists, in cooperation with scientists from USDA-APHIS and Florida Department of Agriculture, Division of Plant Industry, collected the parasitoid in Argentina and established a laboratory test colony in a quarantine facility in Gainesville, FL. Host specificity tests on native North American lepidopteran species are being conducted in the quarantine. Scientists with USDA-ARS Tallahassee, USDA-ARS Tifton, and FuEDEI collaborated on field trials in Argentina on a formulation of the ARS-developed synthetic female cactus moth sex pheromone as a mating disruption tactic. In pheromone-treated plots, mating and oviposition of the cactus moth were significantly reduced when compared to plots not treated with This research is a continuation of ongoing collaboration in which ARS-Tallahassee has provided critical research and technology transfer to the USA-Mexico Binational Abatement Program Against the Invasive Cactus Moth Pest. The invasive cactus moth is native to Argentina and was found in Florida in 1989. Caterpillars of this moth eat prickly pear cactus and threaten the cactus-based agriculture and ecosystems in the southwestern USA and Mexico. The invasive Argentine cactus moth continues to spread in the southern U.S. attacking and destroying prickly pear cactus. Development and implementation of the sterile insect technique (SIT) along with host plant removal was successful at slowing the spread of this insect and eradicating outbreak populations on islands in Alabama, Mississippi, and Mexico. However, funding levels were reduced and became inadequate to sustain the area-wide program necessary to stop the moth’s spread. The program now emphasizes the development of more sustainable control tactics against this pest, including classical biological control and the disruption of pheromone communication systems. Scientists from the USDA-ARS Center for Medical, Agricultural, Veterinary Entomology, Tallahassee, FL, in collaboration with scientists from USDA-ARS-CPMRU, Tifton, GA, and FuEDEI (Fundación Para el Estudio de Especies Invasivas), Argentina, evaluated the potential for a native Argentine wasp to be a biological control agent of the cactus moth. The wasp attacks the larval stage of the cactus moth and was determined to be a new species to science. Field surveys and laboratory bioassays in Argentina have determined that the wasp has a narrow host range in Argentina. These scientists, in cooperation with scientists from USDA-APHIS and Florida Department of Agriculture, Division of Plant Industry, collected the parasitoid in Argentina and established a laboratory test colony in a quarantine facility in Gainesville, FL. Host specificity tests on native North American lepidopteran species are being conducted in the quarantine. Scientists with USDA-ARS Tallahassee, USDA-ARS Tifton, and FuEDEI collaborated on field trials in Argentina on a formulation of the ARS-developed synthetic female cactus moth sex pheromone as a mating disruption tactic. In pheromone-treated plots, mating and oviposition of the cactus moth were significantly reduced when compared to plots not treated with This research is a continuation of ongoing collaboration in which ARS-Tallahassee has provided critical research and technology transfer to the USA-Mexico Binational Abatement Program Against the Invasive Cactus Moth Pest. The invasive cactus moth is native to Argentina and was found in Florida in 1989. Caterpillars of this moth eat prickly pear cactus and threaten the cactus-based agriculture and ecosystems in the southwestern USA and Mexico. The invasive Argentine cactus moth continues to spread in the southern U.S. attacking and destroying prickly pear cactus. Development and implementation of the sterile insect technique (SIT) along with host plant removal was successful at slowing the spread of this insect and eradicating outbreak populations on islands in Alabama, Mississippi, and Mexico. However, funding levels were reduced and became inadequate to sustain the area-wide program necessary to stop the moth’s spread. The program now emphasizes the development of more sustainable control tactics against this pest, including classical biological control and the disruption of pheromone communication systems. Scientists from the USDA-ARS Center for Medical, Agricultural, Veterinary Entomology, Tallahassee, FL, in collaboration with scientists from USDA-ARS-CPMRU, Tifton, GA, and FuEDEI (Fundación Para el Estudio de Especies Invasivas), Argentina, evaluated the potential for a native Argentine wasp to be a biological control agent of the cactus moth. The wasp attacks the larval stage of the cactus moth and was determined to be a new species to science. Field surveys and laboratory bioassays in Argentina have determined that the wasp has a narrow host range in Argentina. These scientists, in cooperation with scientists from USDA-APHIS and Florida Department of Agriculture, Division of Plant Industry, collected the parasitoid in Argentina and established a laboratory test colony in a quarantine facility in Gainesville, FL. Host specificity tests on native North American lepidopteran species are being conducted in the quarantine. Scientists with USDA-ARS Tallahassee, USDA-ARS Tifton, and FuEDEI collaborated on field trials in Argentina on a formulation of the ARS-developed synthetic female cactus moth sex pheromone as a mating disruption tactic. In pheromone-treated plots, mating and oviposition of the cactus moth were significantly reduced when compared to plots not treated with This research is a continuation of ongoing collaboration in which ARS-Tallahassee has provided critical research and technology transfer to the USA-Mexico Binational Abatement Program Against the Invasive Cactus Moth Pest. The invasive cactus moth is native to Argentina and was found in Florida in 1989. Caterpillars of this moth eat prickly pear cactus and threaten the cactus-based agriculture and ecosystems in the southwestern USA and Mexico. The invasive Argentine cactus moth continues to spread in the southern U.S. attacking and destroying prickly pear cactus. Development and implementation of the sterile insect technique (SIT) along with host plant removal was successful at slowing the spread of this insect and eradicating outbreak populations on islands in Alabama, Mississippi, and Mexico. However, funding levels were reduced and became inadequate to sustain the area-wide program necessary to stop the moth’s spread. The program now emphasizes the development of more sustainable control tactics against this pest, including classical biological control and the disruption of pheromone communication systems. Scientists from the USDA-ARS Center for Medical, Agricultural, Veterinary Entomology, Tallahassee, FL, in collaboration with scientists from USDA-ARS-CPMRU, Tifton, GA, and FuEDEI (Fundación Para el Estudio de Especies Invasivas), Argentina, evaluated the potential for a native Argentine wasp to be a biological control agent of the cactus moth. The wasp attacks the larval stage of the cactus moth and was determined to be a new species to science. Field surveys and laboratory bioassays in Argentina have determined that the wasp has a narrow host range in Argentina. These scientists, in cooperation with scientists from USDA-APHIS and Florida Department of Agriculture, Division of Plant Industry, collected the parasitoid in Argentina and established a laboratory test colony in a quarantine facility in Gainesville, FL. Host specificity tests on native North American lepidopteran species are being conducted in the quarantine. Scientists with USDA-ARS Tallahassee, USDA-ARS Tifton, and FuEDEI collaborated on field trials in Argentina on a formulation of the ARS-developed synthetic female cactus moth sex pheromone as a mating disruption tactic. In pheromone-treated plots, mating and oviposition of the cactus moth were significantly reduced when compared to plots not treated with pheromone.


Last Modified: 12/28/2014
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