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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: DEVELOPMENT & EVALUATION OF BIOLOGICAL CONTROL AGENTS FOR INVASIVE SPECIES THREATENING THE EVERGLADES & OTHER NATURAL AND MANANGED SYSTEMS

Location: Invasive Plant Research Laboratory

Title: Using internet images to gather distributional data for a newly discovered Caloptilia species (Lepidoptera: Gracillariidae) specializing on Chinese tallow in North America

Authors
item Fox, M -
item Hazen, R -
item Wheeler, Gregory
item Davis, D -

Submitted to: American Entomologist
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: December 1, 2011
Publication Date: March 21, 2012
Citation: Fox, M., Hazen, R., Wheeler, G.S., Davis, D.R. 2012. Using internet images to gather distributional data for a newly discovered Caloptilia species (Lepidoptera: Gracillariidae) specializing on Chinese tallow in North America. American Entomologist. 58(1):32-35.

Interpretive Summary: Chinese tallow tree (Triadica sebifera (L.), Euphorbiaceae) is a noxious and highly invasive species that was deliberately introduced to Georgia in 1772, by Benjamin Franklin. It possesses an impressive suite of chemical defenses, and though the species has been here for 239 years there are still very few native herbivores that feed on it. Triadica sebifera has been documented in 12 states in the southeastern United States, as well as three counties in California and only generalist herbivores have been found feeding on it. A data mining project was conducted searching the internet for images that revealed a new species of moth feeding on the leaves of this species. The damage and moth are distinct and can be distinguished by experts familiar with them. The results indicate that this new moth occurs in at least 22 counties in eight states across the southeastern US. The earliest record was from Baton Rouge, LA and Sumter County, AL in April and October 2004, respectively. The northern most distribution was found from Davidson County, TN. Considering that the two sites recorded in 2004 are more than 320 km apart, it seems likely that the species had been present for at least a year or two prior, time enough for the founding population to expand and disperse across that distance.

Technical Abstract: Chinese tallow tree (Triadica sebifera (L.), Euphorbiaceae) is a noxious and highly invasive species that was deliberately introduced to GA in 1772. In early 2009, an unfamiliar caterpillar was independently discovered feeding on T. sebifera trees in Gainesville, FL and Slidell, LA. Adult moths were reared from both FL and LA populations and identified as a member of the Gracillariidae. Identified as a new species of the genus Caloptilia, its origin was tracked back to its native range in central China. In late summer to fall, the densities of this moth increase and cause significant foliar damage to the host plant. The invasion history, North American range, and extent of damage caused by this insect is unknown. However, occurrence data were obtained by scanning online web sites that had posted photographs of this species and its damage. The results indicate that individuals of this new moth Caloptilia n.sp. occur in at least 22 counties in eight states across the southeastern US. The earliest record was from Baton Rouge, LA and Sumter County, AL in April and October 2004, respectively. The northern most distribution was found from Davidson County, TN. Considering that the two sites recorded in 2004 are more than 320 km apart, it seems likely that the species had been present for at least a year or two prior, time enough for the founding population to expand and disperse across that distance.

Last Modified: 4/16/2014
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