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

Location: Insect Behavior and Biocontrol Research

Title: Beetle herding: optimizing the biological control of the invasive air potato vine using attractive semiochemical lures

item GRIESHEIMER, JESSICA - University Of Florida
item MARTINI, XAVIER - University Of Florida
item MINTEER, CAREY - University Of Florida
item HIGHT, STEPHEN - Retired ARS Employee
item Gaffke, Alexander

Submitted to: Chemoecology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/12/2024
Publication Date: 6/29/2024
Citation: Griesheimer, J.L., Martini, X., Minteer, C., Hight, S., Gaffke, A.M. 2024. Beetle herding: optimizing the biological control of the invasive air potato vine using attractive semiochemical lures. Chemoecology.

Interpretive Summary: Air potato is a non-native invasive vine degrading forests and natural areas throughout the southeastern United States. The air potato leaf beetle, a beetle that can only feed on air potato, was introduced to the United States to help control this weed. While some air potato infestations are controlled by feeding by the beetles, other infestations are not successfully controlled. Therefore, strategies and tools were developed to help enhance feeding by the beetles and obtaining better weed control. Scientists from the USDA-ARS Insect Behavior and Biocontrol Research Unit in Tallahassee, FL in collaboration with researchers from the University of Florida investigated the use of attractive odors to aggregate beetles on target plants. Beetles were attracted to lures containing ocimene and farnesene, and use of these lures resulted in more feeding and control of the air potato vines. The use of these naturally attractive compounds to focus feedings and control by beetles in the field is an important tool for land managers to enhance efficiency of air potato biocontrol programs.

Technical Abstract: The invasive air potato vine Diosocrea bulbifera L., is native to Asia and Africa with invasive infestations in the southeastern United Sates, Hawai’i, and Puerto Rico. In 2011, a host specific biological control agent, Lilioceris cheni (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) was introduced to manage D. bulbifera. Through electrophysiology, previously identified attractive herbivory induced plant volatiles (HIPVs), ocimene and farnesene, were characterized and deployed as attractant semiochemical lures in field conditions. Electroantennogram results validated the ability of adult male and female L. cheni to detect the two compounds. When used in field conditions, adult L. cheni beetles responded positively to the chemically enhanced plants, specifically to a blend of ocimene and farnesene. The chemically enhanced lures increased L. cheni adult densities on D. bulbifera plants in the field compared to the control plants. Plants with higher densities of L. cheni had greater herbivore damage and observed cupped leaves indicating the presence of oviposition and future larval development. The information gathered in this study indicate that the use of attractant semiochemical lures to purposefully aggregate and direct movement of biological control agents can improve the efficacy of invasive plant biocontrol programs.