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Project description

Development of artificial diets to rear new biological control agents of yellow starthistle and other alien weeds. (05XN035)
Program Exotic Pests and Diseases Research Program
Principal
investigator
L. Smith, WRRC, USDA-ARS
Host/habitat Rangeland
Pest Yellow Starthistle Centaurea solstitialis
Discipline Weed Science
Review
panel
Natural Systems
Start year (duration)  2005 (One Year)
Objectives Develop and test a "transfer diet" rearing system that can be used in the field during foreign exploration to rear adults from larvae dissected from yellow starthistle.

Project
Summary
Internal-feeding insects can be effective biological control agents of invasive alien weeds, but they are usually difficult to collect and rear. The development of effective diets and rearing systems could greatly aid the discovery and evaluation of such insects. We will develop a system for rearing field collected larvae to adults that is useful for foreign exploration. Complementary systems will be developed for rearing such insects from eggs to provide adults for host plant specificity evaluation and for mass rearing. We will start with a well-developed model system using a purple loosestrife weevil, then refine and test the method on a well-studied weevil of yellow starthistle, and finally test it on prospective agents of saltcedar and giant reed.

Final report We demonstrated that an artificial diet that was previously developed to rear the purple loosestrife root weevil, Hylobius transversovittatus, can be effective for completing the development of larvae that are dissected out of plants. We used this diet to rear to adult stage larvae and pupae of the yellow starthistle rosette weevil, Ceratapion basicorne, that were dissected from yellow starthistle plants in Turkey.

The diet ingredients were modified to reduce microbial contamination. The container size and style of top were optimized for ease of use and to reduce diet desiccation. Gouging the diet at the container sides facilitated insect survival and permitted easy monitoring of developmental progress. The diet kit successfully reared adults from larvae of other species of root- and stem-boring weevils from spotted knapweed (Asteraceae) and prangos (Apiaceae), and a stem-boring chloropid fly from tall whitetop (Brassicaceae). The diet was not successful for rearing adults of the yellow starthistle stem-boring flea beetle, Psylliodes chalcomera.

First-year
progress
We have demonstrated that an artificial diet that was previously developed to rear the purple loosestrife root weevil, Hylobius transversovittatus, can be effective for completing the development of larvae that are dissected out of plants. We tested the effectiveness of using this diet to rear larvae of the yellow starthistle root crown weevil, Ceratapion basicorne. Although we have reared some individuals to the adult stage, this diet appears to be less effective for this insect than for the purple loosestrife root weevil. We are currently evaluating if the addition of yellow starthistle plant material to this diet improves its suitability for C. basicorne. We are also testing the suitability of the artificial diet for rearing field collected larvae to the adult stage.

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