Location: Systematic Entomology Laboratory2011 Annual Report
1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
ARS is interested in performing research to increase and enhance the understanding of the systematics of beetles (Coleoptera) important to agriculture, landscape plants, and the environment, especially flea beetles, wood-boring beetles, and lady beetles. Our Project Plan has four main objectives: 1) Analyze morphological characters of Neotropical flea beetle genera and assemble those of value for accurately identifying adults; 2) Discover new identification features of Neotropical longhorned woodboring beetle genera and develop new definitions based on these discoveries; 3) Conduct generic revisions, investigate species boundaries, and analyze the higher classification of lady beetles using input from contemporary molecular and morphological based studies; 4) Provide identifications of plant-feeding, woodboring, and predatory beetles, and other beetles of agricultural, economic and environmental importance.
1b. Approach (from AD-416)
ARS will undertake the taxonomic research on agriculturally and economically important beetles by initially making use of many microscopic and imaging techniques. This information is used to assess homology and variation in their structural characteristics. New diagnostic tools such as descriptions, illustrations, and dichotomous and electronic identification keys will be developed using the latest software and imaging equipment available. These products will be made available to the public as hardcopy books, research papers, websites, and electronic identification systems. Timely, accurate identifications of beetles intercepted at ports-of-entry by APHIS-PPQ or submitted by scientists and regulatory agencies will be provided and relevant portions of the National Insect Collection at the National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution) will be curated and expanded.
3. Progress Report
Compile literature and complete database of Caribbean flea beetles. Through SCOPUS searches of holdings in the National Agriculture Library and databases of the Zoological Record, most literature on Caribbean flea beetles has been acquired, with an emphasis on the Greater Antilles species (Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Hispaniola). A Filemaker Pro database has been developed and contains information on all systematic and biological data associated with the described species of Caribbean flea beetles, and currently contains over 300 records. Complete specimen acquisition of longhorned beetles of Hispaniola. All significant collections containing Hispaniolan longhorned beetles have been examined and all material has been borrowed. The most important institutions include the American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY; the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, PA; the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural, Santo Domingo; the Florida State Collection of Arthropods, Gainesville; the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Cambridge; the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington; and the West Indian Beetle Fauna Project, Bozeman; along with many important private collections. In addition to the vast material collected in the last 6 years for the project, over 1,000 additional specimens from these institutions provided valuable bionomic and geographic distribution information for the Field Guide which is in development. This material contains many new species which are currently being described as a necessary requirement before publication of the Field Guide to Hispaniolan Longhorned Beetles. Acquire, sequence and dissect exemplars of lady beetles for higher classification.Last year numerous samples of lady beetles collected in North American agroecosystems were identified through morphological characteristics, and DNA sequences were obtained for three native and two exotic species in order to test the utility of “barcodes” in differentiating them. Arrangements have been made with a Brazilian colleague to visit the U.S. and collaborate on revisionary studies of some misclassified lady beetle genera and species. A collaboration with an Indian and an English colleague has clarified the relationships among species of two Indian lady beetle genera that are beneficial predators of plant pests. Another collaboration resolved the identity of a misclassified lady beetle predator of whiteflies, and yet another collaboration with an American researcher resolved the identity of a lady beetle from Guana Island that is a potential biological control agent for sugarcane mealybugs. Progress has been made in collecting lady beetles that play a key role in the balance of wetland ecologies for a revisionary study of this important group. Complete identifications of agriculturally and economically important beetles submitted to this unit. In the period from October 1, 2010 to July 1, 2011, 3221 submittal lots (5594 specimens) were identified, including 1629 “urgent” and 499 “prompt” submittals for USDA-APHIS-PPQ of specimens intercepted on perishable commodities at ports of entry.
1. Leaf beetles, longhorned woodboring beetles, and lady beetles treatments completed. The completion of research on these insects resulted in 13 publications, including one book of over 300 pages. These treatments provide identification tools, illustrations, and taxonomic and biological data for these species and will aid regulatory agencies and other scientists in controlling pest species and utilizing beneficial species.
2. Publication of a major book revising a large group of agriculturally important flea beetles. Many species treated in this work are important pests of cultivated plants or potential biological control agents of invasive weeds. This revision includes all 75 palearctic species of the genus and provides all available data on their classification, host plants and distribution. There are over 150 plates of figures and maps to aid in the identification of these beetles. This work will be of great utility by researchers on systematics and biology of plant feeding beetles, and in particular, biological control workers interested in exploring new potential agents to control weeds.
3. Important holotypes of species related to the Emerald Ash Borer from museums in Paris, London, Prague, St. Petersburg, Munich, Berlin, and Ottawa examined. Specimens of these species were examined, photographed and borrowed. The collection of Agrilus (the genus of the Emerald Ash Borer) in the Smithsonian Institution (the largest collection in the Western Hemisphere) has been fully curated and databased. A systematic and faunistic database including assumed Emerald Ash Borer relatives has been compiled. Thus far this list includes 68 names for 36 species and subspecies. Teams from the Agriculture Research Service and U.S. Forest Service successfully completed fieldwork and museum collection work in China and Vietnam to collect additional specimens of the Emerald Ash Borer and related species. This work will greatly assist scientists worldwide in the classification and identification of Emerald Ash Borer and related species.
4. DNA “bar-codes” among some lady beetles published. Lady beetles are commonly encountered in North American agroecosystems. The results support the general utility of COI barcodes for distinguishing and diagnosing these beneficial predators, but point to possible limitations in the use of barcodes to resolve species assignments in recently divergent sibling species. A second co-authored paper resolves the identity of a lady beetle species belonging to a group that is used in the biological control of whiteflies that cause economic damage to many crop and ornamental plants. A third co-authored paper identifies and characterizes an adventive lady beetle species on Guam Island (British Virgin Islands) as a potential biological control agent of sugarcane mealybug. All of these lady beetle studies will be of value to agriculturalists and researchers who want to identify lady beetle species in order to determine their relative effectiveness in controlling insect pests, particularly exotic, invasive species.Greenstone, M.H., Vandenberg, N.J., Hu, J.S. 2011. Barcode haplotype variation in North American agroecosystem ladybird beetles (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae. Molecular Ecology Resources. 11(4):629-637.