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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Systematic Entomology Laboratory » Research » Research Project #420490


Location: Systematic Entomology Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-22000-264-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Oct 1, 2010
End Date: Jun 10, 2015

The order Lepidoptera represents one of the greatest radiations of herbivorous animals on the planet. The research component of this plan focuses on the three most economically important families (or superfamilies) of this order, i.e., Noctuidae, Pyraloidea, and Tortricidae. Gaps in our knowledge of morphological, biological, and molecular characters, and the paucity of phylogenetic analyses within many groups in these families combine to slow progress on the development of identification tools for use in pest detection, exclusion, and management, and in the successful implementation of biological control projects. The primary focus of this plan is to remedy those shortcomings by making available to a broad audience tools, databases, and images that will facilitate identifications and research over a broad range of economically important taxa. Within the families/superfamilies Noctuidae, Pyraloidea, and Tortricidae, specific taxonomic groups are selected for revision based on the expertise within the Systematic Entomology Laboratory, the need for revisionary work, and the relevance of the group to American agriculture. Two of the systematic revisions proposed herein are long-term activities which will be completed during the current project. As with all projects in the Systematic Entomology Laboratory at Beltsville, this project also includes a service component that draws upon SEL experts to identify specimens for regulatory agencies (often on an urgent basis) and other research agencies and stakeholders, and maintain and enhance portions of the National Insect Collection. The objectives are: (1) determine species boundaries, describe new species, develop identification keys and illustrations, define relationships among taxa, and investigate host use and specificity of important moth species that are pests of, or beneficial to U.S. agriculture; (2) compile, organize, and post on the web electronic databases and images of primary types of important moth families; and (3) provide expert identifications of specimens submitted by stakeholders worldwide and manage assigned lepidopteran portions of the U.S. National Insect Collection.

ARS will undertake research to generate morphological and molecular characters (DNA sequences) that will be used to test species concepts and hypotheses of relationship among agriculturally important moths. These data also will be used to develop new diagnostic tools (descriptions, illustrations, keys) to permit more rapid and accurate identifications. Databases containing scientific names, distributions, taxonomic literature, and host plant and specimen data pertaining to economically important moths will be expanded and disseminated to the user community. These and other taxonomic tools will be made accessible to the public via publications, the internet, and other electronic media. Timely and accurate identifications of moths will be provided, including those intercepted at ports-of-entry by APHIS-PPQ or submitted by a wide range of scientists and regulatory agencies. Portions of the National Insect Collection at the National Museum of Natural History, a vital tool for research and identification, will be maintained and enhanced.