Title: Ecology and control of an invasive pest, the cactus moth, Cactoblastis cactorum (Lepidoptera) Author
Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: October 26, 2012
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: The cactus moth, Cactoblastis cactorum, was one of the success stories in classical biological control. In the 1920s, the prickly pear cactus was a serious pest in Australia. The cactus moth was imported from its native habitat in South America and proved so successful in controlling cactus that it was mass reared and exported to other countries, including Caribbean islands. In 1989, the moth was discovered in Florida where it threatened ornamental and rare species of cactus. Since then, the moth has spread to several states and is making its way towards the desert southwest, threatening the US cactus industry. Computer models indicate that climatic conditions are favorable for the moth to extend its geographic distribution into Mexico where cactus is an important cultural and economic plant species. Unfortunately, the successful biological control agent had become a serious pest. Despite decades-long scientific interest in the moth, there is little information on the cactus moth biology and population dynamics. We conducted detailed studies on the cactus moth life history at different constant temperatures in the laboratory. Field studies identified three distinct generations in Florida. Our laboratory and field studies suggested the egg stage was vulnerable to control. We evaluated ants as egg predators and wasps as egg parasites. An insect pathogen was also tested as a potential control agent. Effective area-wide management strategies will be needed to prevent serious economic loss to the cactus industries of the US and Mexico.