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Research Project: Biological Control of Invasive Arthropod Pests from the Eastern Hemisphere

Location: European Biological Control Laboratory

Project Number: 0212-22000-027-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Nov 24, 2015
End Date: Nov 23, 2020

Objective 1: Explore for natural enemies, including microorganisms, of invasive arthropod pests identified as high priority targets by the ARS Office of National Programs, performing collections, importations and exportations in compliance with local and international regulations. High priority pests include but are not limited to Asian longhorned beetle, Bagrada bug, Lygus plant bugs, Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) ticks. Objective 2: Perform taxonomic, population genetic and phylogeographic studies as necessary to support successful development of biological control agents. Objective 3: Determine biological and physical parameters that affect the efficacy and safety of potential biocontrol agents, including host specificity, chemical ecology, climate, geography, and microbiological associations of symbionts and pathogens. Objective 4: Evaluate effects of integrated vector management on natural and agro-ecosystems, including effects on population dynamics of the target pests and beneficial/non-target taxa associated with these environments.

Invasions by non native arthropod pests are increasing in number and the area affected, and the damage to ecosystems, economic activity, and human welfare is accumulating. Without improved strategies based on recent scientific advances and increased investments to counter invasions, harm is likely to accelerate. The USDA emphasizes biologically-based integrated pest management systems of arthropod pests, and classical biological control is a major component. Classical biological control by definition involves the intentional introduction of non-native, usually coevolved, natural enemies for permanent establishment and long-term pest control. Once established, natural enemies are self-perpetuating, conserving non-renewable resources and reducing management expenses. One of the main challenges of biocontrol is the long time required to discover appropriate agents and to determine that they will not create a problem when introduced. The European Biological Control Laboratory proposes to take advantage of its biologically strategic locations in France and Greece, and excellent facilities, including one molecular genetic unit and two quarantines, to develop practical approaches to manage invasive pests. Research involves discovering natural enemies (insects, mites or pathogens) that attack the target pest in its land of origin. Prospective agents are characterized morphologically, genetically and biologically, and their degree of specificity toward the target pest is assessed before shipment to US cooperators. Priority targets currently include the Asian longhorned beetle, mirid plant bugs, the bagrada bug, the brown marmorated stink bug, olive fruit fly, and cattle fever ticks. A new research objective involves the implementation of vector management practices to effectively control populations of mosquitoes and sand flies.