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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 #439296

Research Project: Managing Invasive Weeds and Insect Pests Using Biologically-Based Methods

Location: Insect Behavior and Biocontrol Research

2021 Annual Report

1. Develop strategies for optimal use of biological control agents against invasive weeds such as air potato and Chinese tallow tree based on research that improves our understanding of factors that determine weed abundance, including biotic and abiotic elements and climatic region. 1.A. Determine the role of native natural enemies attacking a biological control agent (Caloptilia triadicae) in its introduced range. 1.B. Determine presence and importance of air potato leaf beetle chemical communication pathways to improve air potato biological control. 2. Develop and refine biologically-based control strategies for invasive insects such as the Argentine cactus moth, Harrisia cactus mealybug, and Old World bollworm, focusing on the use of parasitoids and disrupting pheromone cues. 2.A. Determine release factors that increase successful establishment of the parasitoid Apanteles opuntiarum against the Argentine cactus moth. 2.B. Determine the effectiveness of released control agents Anagyrus cachamai and/or A. lapachosus to control the Harrisia cactus mealybug (HCM) in Puerto Rico. 2.C. Determine the effectiveness of disrupting pheromone communication between gregarious cactus moth larvae as a sustainable management tactic for this pest in commercial cactus production areas. 2.D. Determine whether parasitoids that attack native Helicoverpa zea will also be successful against the potentially invasive Helicoverpa armigera. 3. Develop sustainable management strategies such as “push-pull” technology for controlling invasive whiteflies in vegetable production using naturally repellent plants, plant chemicals, trap plants, and green leaf volatiles together with natural enemy refuge plants. 3.A. Identify companion plants, products and chemical compounds that a) repel whiteflies and determine their efficacy in limiting pest dispersal into crops (“push” factors), as well as b) identify plants and products capable of attracting whiteflies into trap crops to facilitate control (“pull” factors). 3.B. Evaluate companion or refuge plants that “attract and reward” important whitefly predators. 3.C. Develop an integrated cropping system combining “push-pull” crops or plant products with natural enemy refuges for sustainable biologically-based control of whiteflies.

Invasive insect pests and weeds are among the most serious problems facing agricultural and natural ecosystems throughout the United States. This project plan describes research to improve implementation of biologically based tactics for non-pesticide management of insect pests and weeds through a better understanding of the pest species’ biology and interactions with host plants and natural enemies, as well as development of optimized approaches, technologies and strategies. One area of research will address improvement of techniques to enhance release success, establishment and impact of biological control insect species against invasive weed species such as the air potato and Chinese tallow tree. Another area of research focuses on the development of an integrated cropping system for control of whiteflies in vegetable crop systems using ‘push’ components consisting of naturally repellent plants or plant compounds, in conjunction with ‘pull’ components that consist of trap crops, complemented by refuge plants to attract and reward natural enemies. Finally, the use of host specific parasitoids for the protection of native cacti from the invasive Argentine cactus moth and the Harrisia cactus mealybug, and protection of crops from the potentially invasive Old World bollworm, will be studied. Therefore, the plan is expected to serve several stakeholders and customers, including researchers at land grant institutions, government and non-governmental organizations, growers, ranchers and commodity groups, and small-scale farmers and organic producers. The outcomes of this research project will improve the sustainability of agricultural production, reduce reliance on pesticides and reduce the environmental degradation caused by invasive pest species.

Progress Report
Progress was made by ARS researchers in Tallahassee, Florida, on objectives, all of which fall under National Program 304, Component 2, Weeds and Component 3, Insects and Mites. For Component 2, progress on this project focuses on Problem Statements B, biological control and ecosystem research, and C, integrated approaches to weed management. For Component 3, progress on this project focuses on Problem Statements A, early detection, prediction and monitoring of beneficial and pest arthropods, B, develop new or improved management tools and knowledge to control arthropod pests, and C, integrate management strategies to control arthropod pests. For Objective 1, Subobjective 1a, young Chinese tallow trees have been obtained and established in a tallow tree field and greenhouse nursery as the basis for future biological control studies with a moth. For Subobjective 1b, the inventory of air potato plants in the greenhouse and laboratory was expanded as a basis for expansion of colonies of Chinese and Nepalese biotypes of air potato beetle colonies for future studies on chemical communication among beetles. For Objective 2, Subobjectives 2a – 2c, progress was made determining the location and characteristics of field sites for release of a natural enemy wasp to reduce populations of the damaging cactus moth. This moth attacks and feeds on various prickly pear cacti, both in native, sensitive environments and in commercial settings. A release permit for the wasp species to control the moth is prepared with consideration of optimal factors for establishment of the populations. Enhanced rearing methods for the wasp were developed. Preliminary studies with the larval pheromone of the Argentine cactus moth were conducted. For Subobjective 2d, corn fields were sampled for pests damaging the ears. Collections of caterpillars and parasitic wasps provide the foundation for subsequent studies on moth/parasitoid interactions. For Objective 3, Subobjective 3a, different plants for use in “push” and “pull” management strategies were discovered. Three varieties of mustard plus garlic repellent (“push” factor) to whiteflies in leafy green vegetable plots inside a screenhouse have potential to repel pest whiteflies from crops. “Pull” plants attracted pests, such as whiteflies, aphids, and thrips and can serve as trap crops for these insects. Additionally, attraction of beneficial insects to these plants enhances biocontrol efforts. For Subobjectives 3b and 3c, flowering refuge plants such as sweet alyssum, marigold and basil infested with whitefly were shown to host populations of insect predators such as minute pirate bug, ladybug and big-eyed bugs which has potential to reduce whitefly populations.

1. Biological control of the invasive cactus moth. ARS researchers in Tallahassee, Florida, suggest commercial (for the production of the vegetable nopalitos) and native prickly pear cactus species in the genus Opuntia are attacked by several insects including the cactus moth, Cactoblastis cactorum. While the wasp species Apanteles opuntiarum is a good control agent against the moth, its success is related to both geographical and ecological factors of release sites, and the ability to rear and release large numbers. Cooperative research with scientists in Mexico and ARS researchers in Tallahassee, Florida, showed that the release locations for biological control success are from the panhandle of Florida westward to Texas and into northern Mexico. Rearing studies demonstrated that wasps provided with cactus moth odors and pieces of host plant cactus enhanced parasitism rates in the laboratory. Therefore, improved rearing methods for the wasps and identified release locations in Florida with good field characteristics have been included in a permit for release into the environment. Successful management of this invasive pest will now be accomplished along the Gulf Coast of the United States and into Mexico, potentially saving infestation and damage of over 12,000 ha of nopalitos agriculture in Mexico and large areas of native cactus in the United States.

Review Publications
Triapitsyn, S.V., Aguirre, M.B., Logarzo, G.A., Hight, S.D. 2020. Hyperparasitoids (Hymenoptera: Encyrtidae and Signiphoridae) of Hypogeococcus spp. mealybugs (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) in Argentina and Paraguay. Acta Zoologica Lilloana. 64(2):76-93.
Kanga, L.H., Marchal, W., Legaspi, J.C., Haseeb, M. 2021. First report of insecticide resistance to organophosphates and pyrethroids in the small hive beetle,(coleoptera: nitidulidae)and development of a resistance monitoring technique. Journal of Economic Entomology.
Go, M.V., Almarinez, B.J., Barrion, A.T., Carandang Vi, J.S., Amalin, D.M., Legaspi, J.C. 2020. Assessment of the parasitic relation of Comperiella calauanica Barrion, Almarinez, and Amalin on Aspidiotus rigidus Reyne in Hidden Valley Springs Resort, Calauan, Laguna, Philippines. Manila Journal of Science. 13:89-97.
Kariuki, E.M., Cuda, J.P., Hight, S.D., Hix, R.L., Gettys, L.A., Gillett-Kaufman, J.L. 2019. Foraging depth of Cricotopus lebetis Sublette larvae. Journal of Aquatic Plant Management. 57:69-78.
Fitzgerald, T.D., Carpenter, J.E., Hight, S.D. 2019. Larval pheromone disrupts pre-excavation aggregation of Cactoblastis cactorum (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) neonates precipitating colony collapse. Florida Entomologist. 102(3):538-543.
Poveda-Martinez, D., Aguirre, M.B., Hight, S.D., Triapitsyn, S.V., Diaz-Soltero, H., Vitorino, M.D., Hasson, E. 2020. Species complex diversification by host plant use in an herbivorous insect: The source of Puerto Rican cactus mealybug pest and implications for biological control. Ecology and Evolution. 00:1-18.
Aguirre, M.B., Logarzo, G.A., Triapitsyn, S.V., Diaz-Soltero, H., Hight, S.D., Bruzzone, O.A. 2019. Analysis of biological traits of Anagyrus cachamai and Anagyrus lapachosus to assess their potential as biological control candidate agents against Harrisia cactus mealybug pest in Puerto Rico. Biocontrol. 64:1-13.
Poveda-Martinez, D., Agyurrem, N.B., Logarzo, G.A., Calderon, L., De La Colina, A., Hight, S.D., Triapitsyn, S.V., Diaz-Soltero, H., Hasson, E. 2019. Untangling the Hypogeococcus pungens species complex (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) for Argentina, Australia, and Puerto Rico based on host plant associations and genetic evidence. PLoS One. 14(7):e0220366.
Dourado, L.R., Leite, G.D., Soares, M.A., Teixeira, G.L., Silva, F.W., Sampaio, R.A., Zanuncio, J.C., Legaspi, J.C. 2020. Ecological indices of phytophagous Hemiptera and their natural enemies on Acacia auriculiformis (Fabales: Fabaceae) plants with or without dehydrated sewage sludge application in a degraded area. PLoS One. 15(8):e0237261.
Pereira, E.S., Soares, M.A., Caldeira, Z.V., Veloso, R.S., Da Silva, L., Da Silva, D.H., De Lima Santos, I.C., De Castro E Castro, B.M., Zanuncio, J.C., Legaspi, J.C. 2020. Selectivity of the insecticide deltamethrin to the parasitoid Palmistichus elaeisis (Hymenoptera: Eulophidae). Scientific Reports. 10:12395.
Almarinez, B.M., Barrion, A.T., Navasero, M.V., Navasero, M.M., Cayabyab, B.F., Carandang Iv, J.R., Legaspi, J.C., Watanabe, K., Amalin, D.M. 2020. Biological control:A major component of the pest management program for the invasive coconut scale insect, Aspidiotus rigidus Reyne,in the Philippines. Insects. 11(11):745.