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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Gainesville, Florida » Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology » Insect Behavior and Biocontrol Research » Research » Research Project #420736

Research Project: Biologically Based Management of Invasive Insect Pests and Weeds

Location: Insect Behavior and Biocontrol Research

Project Number: 6036-22000-026-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Dec 2, 2010
End Date: Dec 1, 2015

1. Develop habitat manipulation strategies as components of IPM programs for polyphagous pests through behavioral and ecological studies of their interactions with host plants and natural enemies. 2. Develop “push – pull” strategies for whitefly management that integrate plant-based pest repellents and natural enemy attractants. 3. Develop and refine control strategies for invasive species infesting non-traditional agricultural settings, in particular the Argentine cactus moth and Chinese tallow.

We will determine how polyphagous thrips select and utilize host plants, and how these responses may be manipulated to reduce pest thrips within crops. We will use a model system consisting of tomato and 4 potential trap crops and varying fertilization regimes to test thrips responses to host plant quality as a means to develop trap cropping systems. Systematic surveys of weeds will be used to assess their role as reservoirs in the spread of thrips-vectored viruses. Host plants effects on acquisition and transmission of Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus (TSWV) by thrips will be tested by using various plants as acquisition sources and inoculation targets. Tropical soda apple will be used as a model system to determine how biological control of an invasive weed may reduce the spread of TSWV. Field studies will be used to determine if the presence of the banker plants can increases predation on thrips. Push-pull strategies for the management of whiteflies will be developed. Certain plants and extracts from them will be tested in the field and lab to determine if they can repel whiteflies from target crops. Bioassays of other plants will be used to identify those that are good reservoirs for predators of whiteflies. Combinations of repellent plants and banker plants for predators will be studied to optimize push-pull strategies for whitefly management. The sterile insect technique for management of invasive lepidopteran pests will be improved by development of bioassays that measure field performance of sterile moths. Lab bioassays will then be developed as proxy measures for field performance bioassays to gauge sterile insect performance. Existing pheromone trapping for monitoring cactus moth populations will be improved through calibrating captures with population size. Life table studies will be conducted in the cactus moth’s invaded range to identify stages most amenable for biological control. Additional biological control will be assessed by testing non target risks of Trichogramma pretiosum, a candidate for inundative releases. Population dynamic studies of Chinese tallow will be conducted to identify what types of biological control agents may have the greatest impact on the weed.