Location: Invasive Plant Research Laboratory
2013 Annual Report
2. To assess the data and discern the safety of releasing agents in Florida for biological control.
3. To prepare and release permitted insects for distribution and field evaluation in Florida.
Additional biological control agents will be sought for species for which some control has been achieved, including melaleuca; and 4. Conduct risk analysis to determine environmental safety of new and existing potential biological control agents for weeds such as air potato, melaleuca, Brazilian pepper, lygodium, downy rose myrtle, Chinese tallow, waterlettuce and skunk vine.
Quarantine research at the USDA ARS Invasive Plant Research Lab located at the FDACS DPI Florida Biological Control Laboratory, Gainesville received approval from APHIS PPQ to resume full operation in early December 2012. Meanwhile, surveys for host specific natural enemies of R. tomentosa in China (mainland and Hong Kong) resulted in the discovery and importation (to the Fort Lauderdale facility) of four lepidopteran species: Carea varipes, Neostauropus alternus, Metanastria gemella and Arna bipunctapex. Multiple generations of all species were reared on R. tomentosa in a quarantine laboratory, demonstrating that the plant is a developmental host. However, none of the species demonstrated sufficient host specificity to be considered for biological control of R. tomentosa in the USA. In March and April of 2013, a total of 168 Rhodomrytus woody stems potentially harboring lepidopteran or cerambycid stem boring larvae, and 8 species of lepidopteran leaf feeding larvae were contained in the shipments. Rearing of the leaf feeding larvae is nearly completed but rearing of the stem boring larvae will be ongoing for some time due to their long life cycles. Ongoing research focuses on rearing and initiating host range testing of these species.