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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 #433154

Research Project: Improved Biologically-Based Tactics to Manage Invasive Insect Pests

Location: Insect Behavior and Biocontrol Research

Project Number: 6036-22000-033-015-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Aug 1, 2017
End Date: Jul 31, 2022

To develop biologically based solutions to control invasive pest species on vegetable and small fruits and to improve the health of pollinators. The particular techniques of interest include classical biological control, conservation biological control, augmentation (inoculation and inundation), and molecular genetics. This project will be used to demonstrate novel biologically based Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies. Results of this research will have broad applicability to other agricultural systems. The cooperator will provide the needed expertise in honey bee management, insect ecology, insect pathology, intraguild interactions and monitoring techniques for the development of management programs which incorporate judicious integrations of natural enemies.

Fruit and vegetable production is a major industry in Florida. Nationally, Florida ranks second in the value of vegetable and melon production and fifth in all crops. Thrips, whiteflies, aphids and mites are major invasive pests that threaten vegetable and small fruit production in Florida, thus, there is a need for innovative strategies to mitigate such invasive pest species. More knowledge on natural enemies and their impact on agriculture and the environment are also needed. Additionally, bee health is critical for the success of pollination-based agriculture, which produces about one-third of our diet in the United States. Honey bees also make a significant contribution to the environment by pollinating wildflowers and home gardens. However, the number of honey bee colonies in the U.S. has declined by more than 40%. Colony losses have occurred concurrent with an increasing demand for the pollination of fiber, fruit, vegetable and nut crop. There is urgent need for strategies to secure honey bee health. The cooperator will develop new technologies for managing key invasive pests of vegetables and small fruits and provide a better understanding of science-based approaches to conservation biology. The research will contribute to a better understanding of dispersal of invasive species and weed management strategies. The efficacies of biological control agents will be evaluated in collaboration with the Principal Investigator including push-pull techniques with trap and refuge crops and soil solarization. The cooperator and the ADODR will also evaluate environmentally sound methods to produce healthy honey bee colonies and to increase crop pollination.