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Research Project: Biological Control and Integrated Management of Invasive Arthropod Pests from Europe, Asia, and Africa

Location: European Biological Control Laboratory

Project Number: 0212-22000-030-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Nov 24, 2020
End Date: Nov 23, 2025

Objective 1: Explore across Europe, Asia and Africa for natural enemies of invasive arthropod pests identified as high priority targets by the ARS Office of National Programs, that include but are not limited to stink bugs, fruit flies, beetles, planthoppers, ticks and mosquitoes. Objective 2: Characterize target pests and their natural enemies to enable the successful search of prospective biocontrol agents. • Sub-objective 2a. Investigate the phylogeography of target pests to trace the geographic origin of US invasive populations. • Sub-objective 2b. Characterize genetically the target pests and associated natural enemies in order to support taxonomic identification and facilitate selection of best candidates for biological control. • Sub-objective 2c. Characterize microbiomes associated with target pests and candidate biocontrol agents of interest, with the support of whole genome sequencing when needed. • Sub-objective 2d. Characterize and compare the full genome sequences for biocontrol agents of the olive fruit fly and for a hemipteran invasive pest, bagrada bug, to probe the genetic bases of invasiveness or potential for biological control. Objective 3: Prevent adverse environmental impacts of biological control by in-depth evaluation of efficacy and safety of prospective natural enemies. • Sub-objective 3a. Determine biological and ecological parameters that affect the efficacy and safety of parasitoids of target pests. • Sub-objective 3b. Investigate the chemical ecology of target pests, including the viburnum leaf beetle and the olive fruit fly, and their natural enemies. • Sub-objective 3c. Synergism between Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) and biological control for fostering management of the bagrada bug and research of its new natural enemies. Objective 4: Develop surveillance strategies for blood feeding arthropods and design novel insecticide application methods for better protection of human health, ecosystems and wildlife. • Sub-objective 4a. Evaluate novel and optimize existing vector surveillance tools for increasing treatment-precision and quality assessment of vector control applications including but not limited to Mosquitoes, sand flies and ticks). • Sub-objective 4b. Evaluate novel and optimize existing vector control strategies under field conditions including but not limited to Mosquitoes, sand flies and ticks).

Biological invasions by nonnative arthropod pests are on the rise in the U.S., causing adverse impacts on U.S. agriculture, natural ecosystems, and human and animal health. Without improved strategies based on innovative scientific advances and increased investments to counter biological invasions, harm is likely to accelerate. The USDA emphasizes environmentally friendly management of invasive arthropod pests for which classical biological control and vector control are two major components. 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 Europe, and excellent facilities, including two quarantines, to develop efficient approaches in classical biological control and vector management. Research involves discovering natural enemies (insects or mites) that attack the target pest in its land of origin. Prospective agents will be characterized morphologically, genetically and biologically, and their degree of specificity toward the target pest will be assessed before shipment to U.S. cooperators. Research incorporates the most advanced tools in chemical ecology, microbiomics, and genomics that shall improve the predictability and safety of the agents. Priority targets currently include the bagrada bug, spotted lanternfly, olive psyllid, viburnum leaf beetle, allium leaf miner, roseau cane scale, cattle fever tick and Asian longhorned tick. Vector control involves chemical and non-chemical strategies to control target vectors in the most efficacious and environmentally safe way possible. Research improves methods for detecting and monitoring vector populations such as mosquitoes, sand flies and ticks and designs novel vector control technologies under the umbrella of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for better protection of human health, ecosystems and wildlife.