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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Albany, California » Western Regional Research Center » Invasive Species and Pollinator Health » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #382868

Research Project: Management of Invasive Weeds in Rangeland, Forest and Riparian Ecosystems in the Far Western U.S. Using Biological Control

Location: Invasive Species and Pollinator Health

Title: Eriophyid mites in biological control of weeds: how to deal with them

item MARINI, FRANCESCA - Biotechnology And Biological Control Agency
item WEYL, PHILIP - Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau International (CABI) - Switzerland
item VIDOVIC, BILJANA - University Of Belgrade
item PETANOVIC, RADMILA - University Of Belgrade
item LITTLEFIELD, JEFFREY - Montana State University
item SIMONI, SAURO - Agricultural Research Council (CRA)
item DE LILLO, ENRICO - Bari University
item CRISTOFARO, MASSIMO - Enea Casaccia Research Center
item Smith, Lincoln

Submitted to: Insects
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/31/2021
Publication Date: 6/1/2021
Citation: Marini, F., Weyl, P., Vidovic, B., Petanovic, R., Littlefield, J., Simoni, S., De Lillo, E., Cristofaro, M., Smith, L. 2021. Eriophyid mites in biological control of weeds: how to deal with them. Insects. 12(6):513.

Interpretive Summary: Eriophyid mites are tiny creatures, no bigger than a speck of dust. All species feed on plants and some can cause considerable damage. These minuscule herbivores have an intimate relationship with the plants that they live on, and most of the known species have been collected from only a single plant species, which suggests that they are very host specific. They reproduce extremely quickly and can build up populations of millions if not billions of individuals within a single season. In recent years, research to evaluate their potential for the biological control of invasive plants has increased. Working with them poses challenges but offers opportunities for researchers. We review the most updated information in the context of weed biological control, giving current information on the challenges already faced and possible opportunities and solutions. We cover topics on taxonomy, evaluation of safety as biological control agents, impact and efficacy on the targeted plant species, and release and post-release monitoring. By offering the lessons learned from past research in a single updated document, our goal is to equip researchers with a valuable tool to help deal with challenges and take opportunities offered by eriophyid mites for the management of invasive plants.

Technical Abstract: A classical biological control agent is an exotic host-specific natural enemy, which is intentionally introduced to obtain long-term control of an alien invasive species. Among the arthropods considered for controling invasive plants, eriophyid mites are likely to possess the main attributes required: host specificity, efficacy, and long duration effects. However, so far, only a few species have been approved for release. Due to their microscopic size and the general lack of knowledge regarding their basic biology and behavior, working with eriophyids is particularly challenging. Furthermore, mites disperse in wind like pollen, and little is known about biotic and abiotic constraints to their population growth. All these aspects pose challenges to the validation of eriophyids as prospective biological control agents and hence the general success of the control programs. We identified some of the critical aspects of working with eriophyids in classical biological control of weeds and focused on how they have been or may be addressed. In particular, we analyzed the importance of accurate mite identification, the difficulties faced in the evaluation of their host specificity, risk assessment of nontarget species, their impact on the weed, and the final steps of mite release and post-release monitoring.