Location: Insect Behavior and Biocontrol Research2012 Annual Report
1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
The broad objective of this project is to improve survey and control tactics for Cactoblastis cactorum (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae), an invasive cactus-feeding moth that has rapidly expanded its geographical range along both the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts, invaded the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, and threatens the Opuntia-based agriculture and ecosystems in the southwestern USA and Mexico. Specific objectives of this project are: 1) to optimize trap efficiency and the pheromone lure; 2) to improve implementation of the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT); 3) to develop knowledge of additional control tactics that can be integrated into the containment of this pest at the leading edge of its geographical range; and 4) the eradication of this pest at point infestations that may occur beyond the leading edge.
1b. Approach (from AD-416):
The research and development approach will include: (1) conduct field studies to characterize factors affecting trap efficiency and to develop methods for trap calibration, (2) conduct laboratory and field trials to identify and evaluate additional sex pheromone components and pheromone blends for use as a trap lure, (3) conduct mark-release-recapture trials to evaluate the influence of storage and transportation protocols, release methodology, and release frequency on the competitiveness and dispersal ability of sterile moths, (4) evaluate the performance of filter colony and mass rearing protocols for improved sterile insect production, and (5) complete life table studies on C. cactorum and its natural enemies to identify mortality factors limiting population growth and to identify differences between the native and adventive ranges of the pest, & (6) make collections and establish colonies of native NA cactus-feeding Lepidoptera for use in host specificity tests of exotic natural enemies.
3. Progress Report:
Research in this report relates to parent project Objective 3: “Develop and refine control strategies for invasive species infesting non-traditional agricultural settings, in particular the Argentine cactus moth and Chinese tallow.” This research is a continuation of ongoing collaboration in which ARS-Tallahassee has provided critical research and technology transfer to the USA-Mexico Binational Abatement Program Against the Invasive Cactus Moth Pest. The moth, native to Argentina, was found in Florida in 1989. Caterpillars of this moth only eat prickly pear cactus and threaten the cactus-based agriculture and ecosystems in the southwestern USA and Mexico. Specific research of this project is targeted to optimize trap efficiency and the pheromone lure, improve success of the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), and develop knowledge of additional control tactics against this pest. The invasive Argentine cactus moth continues to spread in the southern U.S. attacking and destroying prickly pear cactus. Working with collaborators in Argentina, a parasitic wasp is being evaluated as a biological control agent. Preliminary research has identified this wasp to be new to science and potentially host specific to the pest cactus moth species. If continued research proves the wasp to be a safe biological control agent, it will represent a self-perpetuating control option and practical approach to protecting the vast native prickly pear cactus in the desert Southwest and Mexico against an established population of invasive cactus moth. Activities performed on this project were monitored throughout the year. Information was sent to APHIS as part of their annual reports. Phone calls and emails were transmitted between ARS, APHIS, and international scientists several times a month. Several face-to-face discussions were held with ARS, APHIS, or other collaborating scientists at planning sessions, workshops, and meetings (domestic and international). These interactions with various scientists served to monitor activities and insure progress in this project.