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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 #428488

Research Project: Developing Biological Control and Mating Disruption Tactics for Control of Cactoblastis cactorum

Location: Insect Behavior and Biocontrol Research

Project Number: 6036-22000-031-06-I
Project Type: Interagency Reimbursable Agreement

Start Date: Oct 1, 2014
End Date: Sep 30, 2018

The broad objective of this project is to improve 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 (now eradicated), and threatens the Opuntia-based agriculture and ecosystems in the southwestern USA and Mexico. Specific objectives of this project are to develop sustainable control tactics that would minimize long term impacts of the moth on native desert ecosystems and commercial cactus production areas. The primary tactics under development are biological control with a host specific parasitoid from Argentina, and the disruption of adult female pheromone communication systems, mating disruption. Benefits of the proposed activities will be to limit population growth of C. cactorum through the introduction of natural enemies that attack the cactus moth and the introduction of new management tactics to minimize damage in commercial cactus plantations. Currently, the only management tactic is the removal of infested cactus pads or whole plants. Biological control is the only self-perpetuating control option and practical approach to protecting the vast native Opuntia habitats in the desert Southwest and Mexico against an established population of C. cactorum. Preliminary research conducted in Argentina suggests that a newly described larval parasitoid (Apanteles opuntiarum) is very host specific to C. cactorum, including other Cactoblastis species. Preliminary field trials with the adult sex pheromone developed by ARS look very promising for the development of mating disruption as a potential management tool for use by commercial cactus growers.

The research and development approach will include: (1) collaborate in the host range determination and impact evaluation of the newly discovered Argentine parasitoid (Apanteles opuntiarum) of Cactoblastis cactorum; (2) collect USA non-target cactus-feeding Lepidoptera for host range testing in Florida quarantine; (3) arrange and conduct pheromone mating disruption trials at Opuntia plantations in Argentina.