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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Systematic Entomology Laboratory » Research » Research Project #429166

Research Project: Beetle Taxonomy and Systematics Supporting U.S. Agriculture, Arboriculture and Biological Control

Location: Systematic Entomology Laboratory

2016 Annual Report

Objective 1: Collect, document and classify Oriental flea beetle genera, analyze their morphological and molecular characters, and assemble characters of value for accurately identifying adults and establishing relationships (NP304, Component 1, Problem Statement 1A). Objective 2: Discover novel morphological and molecular characters for Neotropical longhorned woodboring beetle species and genera and develop new classifications, descriptions, and identification tools based on these discoveries (NP304, Component 1, Problem Statement 1A). Objective 3: Determine the generic limits in at least two weevil groups (palm weevils and citrus root weevils) through a combined analysis of DNA and morphology and develop fully illustrated revisions, identifications keys, and updated classifications and species catalogs based on these studies (NP304, Component 1, Problem Statement 1A). Objective 4: Provide identifications of beetles, including plant-feeders, wood-borers, and others of agricultural, economic and environmental importance (NP304, Component 1, Problem Statement 1A; Component 3, Subcomponent 3B, Problem Statement 3B1).

Research outlined in the plan will culminate in leading edge diagnostic tools that will allow partners and beneficiaries such as the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the Department of Homeland Security, state departments of agriculture, foreign and domestic biological control labs, and researchers, colleagues, and citizens throughout the U.S. and abroad, to accurately identify beetle groups of exceptional importance (flea beetles, longhorned woodborers, and weevils). Accurate species determinations are critical for every biological and systematic study, especially since there may be regulatory actions based on the identifications or biosecurity implications (Gregory, et al., 2005). By broadly providing research outputs the public, teaching workshops, training other researchers, building government databases on invasive and native species, a potential benefit is to help prevent the spread of invasive species. Through these activities, the problem of declining systematic expertise described in the recent Federal Interagency Committee report on Invasive Terrestrial Animals and Pathogens (ITAP, 2008) will be addressed. Beetles important as control agents of weeds and plant pests will be identified and characterized so they can be used effectively by biological control workers. The wealth of new information prepared for poorly known groups of beetles will have a broader effect on other research on biology, ecology, and biodiversity of beetles. The products of the proposed research will include pictorial guides, keys to accurately identify flea beetles, longhorned woodboring beetles, and weevils, and catalogues and databases for these groups. Examples will include identification tools such as a field guide to the Cerambycidae of the Dominican Republic, LucID websites and keys (including Oriental flea beetles; longhorned beetle tribes), and revisions of beetle taxa, including Elaphidion (Cerambycidae), Monomacra (Chrysomelidae), Diaprepres and Compsus (Curculionidae). Other publications will be produced that focus on descriptions of new species of these groups from Asia and the Neotropical Regions. Still other publications will include catalogs (Dryophthorinae, Oriental flea beetle genera). This project will increase beetle representation in the U.S. National Insect Collection, help build the scanned resources as part of the Biodiversity Heritage Library, build photographic type specimen databases, and lead to regional species inventories and catalogs for use in conservation and management of native landscapes and natural habitats.

Progress Report
During the past year, ARS researchers at Beltsville, Maryland (Smithsonian Institution), developed a revisionary study of Oriental flea beetle genera; and continued work toward a LucID identification guide for the Oriental flea beetles. The genus level database for flea beetles of the Oriental Region has been updated and a revisionary study of an Oriental genus Mandarella has been published. Additional funding was necessary to travel and collect material in unrepresented parts of Asia. This resulting publication and database are critical to Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service-Plant Protection Quarantine (APHIS-PPQ) and other regulatory agencies to prevent the spread of pest species into the U.S. and better use biological control agents. During the past year, ARS researchers at Beltsville, Maryland (Smithsonian Institution), developed two separate databases cataloguing 1, the genera and species of Dryophthorinae of the World, and 2, the species of Compsus, Exorides and Oxyderces which have contributed to the creation of the most comprehensive source of information for these groups that include information on nomenclature, distribution, types species and depository as well as the listing of all species for each genus and bibliographic information. Continued the sequencing of 10 genes (COI, 18S, 28S, 16S, CAD, wingless, Arginine kinase, EF1a, Alpha Spectrin, PEPCK) across 40 exemplar taxa in the Dryophthorinae to infer evolutionary relationships towards generating upwards of 10 thousand base pairs that when combined with morphological data of the adults and larvae should signify the most comprehensive estimate of relationship for this group of weevils. More than 100 characters containing 300 states have been entered and are being coded into the databasing program vSysLab 1.1 ( and images linked to each character state using Specimage, an online image repository ( Single entry of this data will generate three products: an illustrated data matrix for phylogenetic analysis, natural language descriptions, and fully illustrated interactive keys (LucID). The first comprehensive description of the larva of the Dryophthorinae genus Scyphophorus was published. Description of the previously unknown larva of 4 Dryopthroinae genera (Poteriophorus, Nephius, Nassophasis, Phacecorynes) with information on host plant associations is underway. This study will help elucidate the higher-level relationships of Dryophthorinae and provide a basis to understand the link between structure and function and provide identification tools for this often taxonomically overlooked developmental stage. During the past year, ARS researchers at Beltsville, Maryland (Smithsonian Institution), completed identifications of beetles, including those intercepted at all ports-of-entry into the U.S., and those submitted to the laboratory by universities and agricultural extension agencies, and entered the data in the Systematic Entomology Laboratory Identification System. Significant numbers of beetle identifications have been made. In the period from October 1, 2015 to June 10, 2016, 2293 submittal lots (3271 specimens) were identified, including 1927 “urgent”, 136 “prompt”, and 230 “routine” submittals for USDA-APHIS-PPQ of specimens intercepted on perishable commodities at ports of entry. “Urgent” identifications (those requiring same day turn-around of specimens intercepted on perishable commodities at ports-of-entry) have been processed daily as submitted. Obstacles to achieving this milestone include shortness of staff specialists to perform identifications, diversion of scientific staff to perform technical and IT functions due to loss of former positions, and loss of collaborating specialists who formerly handled regular lots for some groups. These identifications are critical to APHIS-PPQ, regulatory agencies, universities and state extension agencies.

1. Phytophagous beetles and biotic degradation of soil and vegetation. ARS researchers in Beltsville, Maryland, (Smithsonian Institution) completed a major new study documenting vast biotic degradation of soil and vegetation, (commonly referred to as desertification) by overgrazing, construction and recreation in the southern Mediterranean. Two main types of xeric landscapes were investigated: 1) natural highly specific deserts, semi-deserts, dry mountain slopes and screes with the consortia of 3–6 species of beetles, mainly Buprestidae, Chrysomelidae, and Curculionoidea, feeding on Apiaceae, Asteraceae, Brassicaceae, Chenopodiaceae, Ephedraceae and Polygonaceae; and 2) anthropogenic, newly emerged, wormwood steppe and semidesert, and floristically impoverished desertified areas that lack commonly diversified beetle consortia. This study is an example of naturally occurring and human induced desertification that is useful for proper agricultural exploitation of desertified landscapes in the Western United States, particularly in California affected by persistent drought.

2. New identification tools for the agave snout weevil (ASW). ARS researchers in Beltsville, Maryland, (Smithsonian Institution) reported for the first time the presence of Scyphophorus acupunctatus (ASW), in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, one of the most destructive pests of agave, which affects the global industries of tequila, mezcal, perfume, henequen, nardo, and fiber manufacturing as well as native plants where the weevil becomes accidentally established. They developed new morphological, behavioral, and molecular identification tools to unequivocally identify ASW or any developmental stage. The report of this weevil is of great concern for the agave plant, which was listed in 2014 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as endangered with this pest being listed as one of its main threats. They also provided monitoring and management recommendations. Detection and rapid identification of this weevil is crucial towards its control and to mitigate the risk it poses to valuable and vulnerable natural resources.

3. Catalog of 367 case bearing leaf beatles species. ARS researchers at Beltsville, Maryland, (Smithsonian Institution) published a catalog of 367 case-bearing leaf beetles species and described the immature stages. The catalog covers the world fauna, and reviews eggs, larva, and pupae, host plants, distributions, host ants (for species associated with ants), and insect parasitoids. Many leaf beetles are serious pests, feeding on crops and destroying valuable plants, particularly during the larval stages. This contribution should stimulate efforts to discover more immature stages and to document all life stages towards improving biological information of two important groups of leaf beetles. It will be useful to biological control workers, taxonomists, ecologists, conservation biologists, coleopterists, morphologists and those interested in plant-feeding beetles and their interactions.


Review Publications
Korotyaev, B.A., Gultekin, L., Volkovitsh, M.G., Dorofeyev, V.I., Konstantinov, A.S. 2016. Bioindicator beetles and plants in desertified and eroded lands in Turkey. Journal of Insect Biodiversity. 4(1):1-47.
Damaska, A., Konstantinov, A.S. 2016. A new species of Cangshanaltica Konstantinov et al., a moss-inhabiting flea beetle from Thailand (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Galerucinae: Alticini). Zootaxa. 4107(1):93-97. doi: 10.11646/zootaxa.4107.1.7.
Chi-Feng, L., Cheng-Lung, T., Konstantinov, A.S., Wen-Bin, Y. 2016. Revision of Mandarella Duvivier from Taiwan, with a new species, new synonymies and identities of highly variable species (Insecta, Chrysomelidae, Galerucinae, Alticini). Zootaxa. 568:23-49 10.3.
Konstantinov, A.S. 2016. Possible living flea beetle fossil in Bolivia: A new genus of flea beetles with modified hind legs (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Galerucinae: Alticini). Zootaxa. 592:103-120 doi:10.3897/zookeys.592.8180.
Chamorro, M.L., Persson, J., Torres, S., Keularts, J., Scheffer, S.J. 2016. Molecular and morphological tools to distinguish Scyphophorus acupunctatus Gyllenhal, 1838: a new weevil pest of the endangered Eggers Agave from St Croix, US Virgin Islands. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington. 118(2):218-243.
Chaboo, C.S., Chamorro, M.L., Scholler, M.E. 2016. Catalog of known immature stages of Camptosomate leaf beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Cryptocephalinae and Lamprosomatinae). ZooKeys. 118(2):150-217.
Agrain, F.A., Buffington, M.L., Chaboo, C.S., Chamorro, M.L., Scholler, M.S. 2015. Leaf beetles are ant-nest beetles: the curious life of the juvenile stages of case-bearers (Coleoptera, Chrysomelidae, Cryptocephalinae). ZooKeys. 547:133-164.