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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Research Project: Search, Identification, and Exportation of Natural Enemies of the Cactus Moth, Cactoblastis Cactorum

Location: Insect Behavior and Biocontrol Research Unit

2013 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
Study the feasibility of the biological control of the Argentine Cactus Moth, Cactoblastis cactorum, in the USA.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Explorations for potential cactus moth biological control agents will be conducted in Argentina, primarily the newly identified braconid wasp Apanteles opuntiarum. Living colonies of the natural enemies in their cactus moth hosts will be shipped to Florida quarantine facilities (Center for Medical, Agricultural, and Veterinary Entomology and/or FL Dept. of Plant Industry). Studies on biology, host specificity, and efficacy will be conducted on the potential biological control agents. Any other information necessary to obtain permission to release the biological control agent will be obtained.


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, such as classical biological control. 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. 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. 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, such as classical biological control. 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. 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. 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, such as classical biological control. 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. 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.


Last Modified: 9/23/2014
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