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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Related Topics

Research Project: Biologically Based Techniques for Control of Insect Pests

Location: Insect Behavior and Biocontrol Research Unit

2013 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
To develop and improve the biologically based technolgies used for the area-wide control of disease-vectoring thrips and migratory Lepidoptera, such as, the invasive cactus moth. The particular methods of interest are classical, inundative and conservation biological control of both insects and plants, particularly the latter that serve as pathogen reserviors, and the sterile insect technique (SIT). The systems for investigations will serve as models for testing hypotheses regarding novel biologically based Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques. Results of this research are not limited to specific pests but will have broad applicability to other systems. The cooperator will provide the needed expertise in spatial ecology and detection techniques to analyze the spread and movement of pests and natural enemies and thus facilitate development of managment programs, including optimal biological control agent release strategies.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
A principle obstacle to better control the disease-vectoring thrips and whiteflies is the lack of information concerning weeds, sometimes invasive, pathogen reserviors, and the movements of insects between these reservoirs and crops. There is also a dearth of knowledge on natural enemies and their impact in crop and non-crop situations. The cooperator will develop new methods, including genetic, that will determine the presence of infections and the consequeances of infection on insect behavior and ecology, and the spread of disease. Subsequently, the efficacies of biological control agens, of both plant reservoirs and pests, will be screened in collaboration with the Principal Investigator. The cooperator and the ADODR will also examine the dispersal behavior and efficacy of sterile males of the invasive cactus moth to optimize release strategies and will develop other tactics to prevent its further spread. Techniques will include mark-recapture and measures of physiological flight capacity. The potential of other control approaches especially, biological control will also be examined.


3.Progress Report:

This research relates directly to Objectives 1. Develop habitat manipulation strategies as components of IPM programs for polyphagous pests through behavioral and ecological studies of their interactions with host plants and natural enemies.; 2. Develop “push – pull” strategies for whitefly management that integrate plant-based pest repellents and natural enemy attractants; and 3. Develop and refine control strategies for invasive species infesting non-traditional agricultural settings, in particular the Argentine cactus moth and Chinese tallow.

Two Master of Sciences students at the FAMU Center for Biological Control are funded through the SCA to work collaboratively with ARS scientists and FAMU faculty. Their projects concern the biological control/ecology of the invasive weed, tropical soda apple, a noxious pest of pastures and the potentially invasive pea leafminer. Specifically, these students and their advisors have:.
1)discovered that tropical soda apple is not, as previously , an important reservoir of the virus causing the crop disease Tomato Spotted Wilt;.
2)determined that an introduced leaf-beetle is an effective control for the soda apple in the southern but not northern portions of its Florida range;.
3)carried out proactive searches throughout the Caribbean and Florida for leafminer natural enemies to counter the potential invasion of peas leafminer into USA agriculture.


Last Modified: 10/30/2014
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