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Augmentorium: A Promising Pest Management Tool for Controlling the Olive Fruit Fly

Augmentoria expirement
Mini augmentoria experiments. (Photo courtesy of the European Biological Control Laboratory)

The regulation of insect pests by their natural enemies under field conditions is the goal of biological control, but natural enemies can sometimes use a little help.

An augmentorium is a tent-like structure designed to receive pest-infested fruits harvested from the field. The augmentorium is equipped with a net whose mesh opening is small enough to sequester the pest as they emerge but large enough to allow natural enemies (parasitoids) to escape. The escaping parasitoids then contribute to suppressing pest populations in the field. Such techniques have been used with success for managing fruit fly populations in Hawai’i and La Reunion.

The low cost, simplicity and zero toxicity of the augmentorium make it an emerging management strategy. However, it has never been used for controlling the olive fruit fly, Bactocera oleae (Diptera: Tephritidae), an economically important pest of olives.

In collaboration with the ARS Tropical Crop and Commodity Protection Research Unit in Hilo, Hawaii, European Biological Control Laboratory (EBCL) scientists are designing an augmentorium specifically adapted to the olive fruit fly – parasitoid complex. The search for an optimal net through laboratory tests is an important component of the study. The promising initial results are encouraging and may lead to an augmentorium-based component of an integrated pest management strategy against the olive fruit fly.

Authors: Gaylord Desurmont and Mélanie Tannières

Contact: Michael Grodowitz

The European Biological Control Laboratory (EBCL) was established in 1991 near Montpellier, France. EBCL was created by the merger of the former European Parasite Laboratory, established in Paris in 1919, and the Biological Control of Weeds Laboratory in Rome. EBCL has a satellite laboratory in Thessaloniki, Greece. As the only USDA ARS-operated laboratory outside the United States, EBCL develops biological control technologies which can be used to suppress invading weeds and insect pests of Eurasian origin. EBCL researchers do this by searching for natural enemies (insects, mites, and pathogens) in their native habitat, determining their identity, testing their host specificity and potential impact in laboratory and field experiments, and shipping promising organisms to the U.S. for further testing as biological control agents. EBCL collaborates with scientists in many countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa to explore in regions of origin of the target weeds and insects.