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Research Project: Biological Control in Integrated Weed Management of Invasive Weeds from Europe, Asia, and Africa

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Title: Field Assessment of the Host Range of Aculus mosoniensis (Acari: Eriophyidae), a Biological Control Agent of the Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima)

Author
item MARINI, FRANCESCA - Bbca-Onlus, Italy
item PROFETA, ERICA - University Of Belgrade
item VIDOVIC, BILJANA - University Of Belgrade
item PETANOVIC, RADMILA - Serbian Academy Of Sciences And Arts
item DE LILLO, ENRICO - Bari Aldo Moro University
item WEYL, PHILIP - Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau International (CABI) - Switzerland
item HINZ, HARIET - Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau International (CABI) - Switzerland
item MOFFAT, CHANDRA - Agriculture And Agri-Food Canada
item BON, MARIE-CLAUDE - European Biological Control Laboratory (EBCL)
item CVRKOVIC, TATIJANA - Institute For Plant Protection And Environment
item KASHEFI, JAVID - European Biological Control Laboratory (EBCL)
item SFORZA, RENÉ - European Biological Control Laboratory (EBCL)
item CRISTOFARO, MASSIMO - Enea Casaccia Research Center

Submitted to: Insects
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/10/2021
Publication Date: 7/13/2021
Citation: Marini, F., Profeta, E., Vidovic, B., Petanovic, R., De Lillo, E., Weyl, P., Hinz, H., Moffat, C., Bon, M., Cvrkovic, T., Kashefi, J., Sforza, R., Cristofaro, M. 2021. Field Assessment of the Host Range of Aculus mosoniensis (Acari: Eriophyidae), a Biological Control Agent of the Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima). Insects. 12, 637. https://doi.org/10.3390/insects12070637.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/insects12070637

Interpretive Summary: Tree of heaven is a tree native to Asia, considered a serious weed wherever it occurs outside of its native range. Among the herbivores which attack it is a tiny mite, Aculus mosoniensis, which causes serious malformations of the growing tips. In order to determine whether this species is safe to use as a biological control agent in Europe, where the mite has already been recorded, and elsewhere within the invasive range of tree of heaven, host range testing is required. After testing several tree species related to tree of heaven, it was found that this mite was unable to reproduce on any other species except tree of heaven, and importantly there was no damage or sign of feeding on any of the test species. Thus we conclude that this is a safe biological control agent and will help to control this highly invasive tree.

Technical Abstract: Tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) is a fast-growing deciduous tree native to China, considered a serious invasive species worldwide, with several socio-economic and ecological impacts attributed to it. Chemical and mechanical methods have limited efficacy in its management, and biological controls may offer a suitable and sustainable option. Aculus mosoniensis (Ripka) is an eriophyid mite that has been recorded to attack tree of heaven in 13 European countries. This study aims to explore the host range of this mite by exposing 13 plant species, selected either for their phylogenetic and ecological similarity to the target weed or their economic importance. Shortly after inoculation with the mite, we recorded a quick decrease in mite number on all nontarget species and no sign of mite reproduction. Whereas, after just one month, the population of mites on tree of heaven numbered in the thousands, irrespective of the starting population, and included both adults and juveniles. Significantly, we observed evidence of damage due to the mite only on target plants. Due to the specificity, strong impact on the target, and the ability to increase its population to high levels in a relatively short amount of time, we find A. mosoniensis to be a very promising candidate for the biological control of tree of heaven.