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United States

Department of








Beltsville, Maryland


ARS research to Combat Invasive Species

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Research Service (ARS) conducts research in extremely diverse areas involving prevention, control and management of invasive species. For example, ARS provides research in support of action agencies such as the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), to reduce the rate of introduction of invasive species, and to rapidly detect, identify and eradicate incipient species. We also work closely on this issue with States and local governments; with the USDA Cooperative States Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES), Forest Service (FS), Economic Research Service (ERS), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and others; State Agricultural Experiment Stations (SAES); with many Department of Interior (USDI) agencies; with the Department of Defense; the private sector; and with international partners. ARS also conducts extensive research on the long-term management of established invasive species, emphasizing biologically based integrated pest management activities. The estimate for ARS invasive species research for FY 2000 is $70 million.

Selected projects against invasive weed, arthropod and disease pests in which ARS plays a major role are discussed below.


Melaleuca, Melaleuca quinquenervia

  • Melaleuca is a tree introduced from Australia at the turn of the century. Well adapted to Florida wetland areas, it occupies about 1.5 million acres, and expands at about 50 acres per day. It is a very serious threat to southern wetlands.

  • Melaleuca has displaced native wetland vegetation in the Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, the Everglades Conservation Areas, Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, and Lake Okeechobee, and waterways of the South Florida Water Management District.

  • Current economic losses from melaleuca have been estimated at about $170 million/year. Herbicidal controls are prohibitively expensive, of limited effectiveness, and are non-specific, adversely affecting native plant communities. Current control methods depend upon hand-pulling or cutting.

  • Classical biological control, using specific natural enemies from Australia, is the safest and most economical option for sustainable management of melaleuca. ARS has scientists stationed in Australia and Florida to locate, test, and apply insect biological control agents against melaleuca.

  • The first biological control agent for melaleuca, the weevil, Oxyops vitosa, was released in April 1997. This weevil is already impacting melaleuca at release sites and is spreading to other locations.

  • ARS has many other insects in various stages of evaluation for biological control of melaleuca.

  • Program funding is provided by a consortium of ARS, the Army Corps of Engineers, the South Florida Water Management District, the Florida Department of Natural Resources, the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation, and Dade County.

Leafy Spurge, Euphorbia esula

  • The search for natural enemies of leafy spurge was based out of the ARS European Biological Control Laboratory, now located in Montpellier, France. Nine leafy spurge biological control agents were established in the Western United States because of these activities.

  • In particular, Aphthona flea beetles have been particularly promising so far, dramatically reducing leafy spurge at release sites. Leafy spurge is the first weed target of an ARS Areawide Pest Management Program. This program brings together ARS and our customers and partners from four Western States (North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming) in a special TEAM Leafy Spurge effort.

  • TEAM Leafy Spurge sponsored Spurgefest 99, held in Medora, North Dakota, June 29-July 1, 1999, at which representatives of the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior spoke and made presentations of awards to key TEAM Leafy Spurge members.

  • The program is expected to provide nearly $4.6 million over 5 years, nearly half of which supports efforts by partners at universities and State departments. Additional biological control agents have been located in Europe, which will be tested and released in the United States if acceptably specific.

Saltcedar, Tamarix ramosissima

  • Saltcedar is a serious weed of riparian areas in the western United States. It infests over one million acres, and is spreading.

  • Saltcedar is difficult and expensive to control, given its high regenerative capacity and high seed production. The only hope for long-term management of salt cedar is biological control combined with revegetation.

  • ARS conducts research on saltcedar out of our Albany, California, laboratory, as part of the new Exotic and Invasive Weed Research Unit, and Temple, Texas, as part of the Grassland Soil & Water Research Laboratory.

  • Over 10 years ago, ARS initiated a biological control program to release herbivorous insects from the native range of Tamarix against this weed in the United States.

  • Extensive host-specificity testing was conducted and the leaf beetle, Diorhabda elongata, and the mealybug, Trabutina mannipara, were considered safe for release.

  • However, before releases were initiated, it was discovered that an endangered bird, the southwestern willow flycatcher, was utilizing saltcedar in parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada as a nesting substrate. Because flycatcher populations were so low and the possibility of extinction was high, the USDI Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) wanted to proceed very cautiously with a biological control program against saltcedar. They wished to release the beetles only at sites far from where the flycatcher was utilizing saltcedar and to conduct careful research on the capacity of the beetles to damage saltcedar and to disperse. Extensive negotiation with FWS resulted in an agreed release plan.

  • Late in July of this past year, APHIS in cooperation with the FWS approved the release of the leaf beetle, Diorhabda elongata, into ten test areas in six states. Releases of the leaf beetle from China and Kazakstan were made in 1999 in room sized cages in California, Colorado, Nevada, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. The permits were approved following the publication of an Environmental Assessment, a public comment period and the issuance of a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI).

  • The releases were conducted within room sized field cages (some as large as 12 x 20 feet) so that beetle numbers could build up on natural Tamarix plants under the observation of the scientific teams evaluating their effectiveness. Once overwintering has been achieved and adequate numbers of beetles are available within the test sites, the beetles will be released into the open environment for further assessment.

  • Detailed monitoring plans have been developed and are currently being implemented to characterize not only the population growth and impact of the beetles on saltcedar, but also to assess the impact of the biological control program on other vegetation and wildlife in the test areas

  • To oversee these tests, a multi-agency Saltcedar Biological Control Consortium has been developed with membership of 35 of Federal, State and private groups all interested in the management of this invasive plant.

  • Biological control with natural enemies and revegetation with native plants are the cornerstones of this integrated weed management program.

  • Program goals include re-establishment of native vegetation, with significant benefit to native fauna such as the southwestern willow flycatcher and the native arthropods and microorganisms that occurred on the native flora.

Giant salvinia, Salvinia molesta

  • Giant salvinia has recently been found in the Palo Verde District, the lower portion of the Colorado River and in a large portion of the Imperial Irrigation District Canal system. The only option for long-term, affordable management of giant salvinia is biological control, using a small weevil from South America, Cyrtobagous salviniae.

  • The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation of Australia introduced C. salviniae against S. molesta in Queensland and in Papua New Guinea in 1980 and 1982, respectively. The program was so successful that the Organisation won the United Nations Science Prize for contributions to a developing country for this program. The weevil has since been introduced in several African and Asian countries, with spectacular success, generally within three years. It is one of the outstanding successes in biological weed control.

  • In the United States, the first specimens of C. salviniae were collected in Florida on a floating fern, Salvinia minima, in 1960. S. minima was introduced into Florida from South America around 1928. S. minima is a major aquatic invasive species in Louisiana and Texas, but not in Florida (presumably due to feeding by C. salviniae), which suggested that the weevil wasn’t there. Subsequent surveys were conducted in Texas and Louisiana, which confirmed that the weevil was not present in those States.

  • A second invasive Salvinia species from South America, S. molesta, was found in Texas in 1998, and a Salvinia Task Force was established to coordinate efforts against the weed. Dr. Ted Center (ARS Aquatic Plant Control Research Unit, Ft. Lauderdale, FL) was contacted by the Task Force about biological control of S. molesta. Dr. Center applied to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for permits to release C. salviniae collected in Florida in Texas and Louisiana. APHIS granted the permits, which were signed by both States. Dr. Center also called the appropriate Agriculture Department contacts in each State, who enthusiastically welcomed release of the weevil. He made the first release of C. salviniae on S. molesta in Texas in mid-June 1999. Recoveries were made at release sites in Texas in October and November, and establishment is likely.

Kudzu, Pueraria montana var. lobata

  • Kudzu is a non native invasive weed from eastern Asia that occupies more than 7 million acres in the United States.

  • Kudzu was deliberately introduced into the USA starting in the 1800s for erosion control and for livestock forage. It now occurs from Florida to New England and westward to Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas, and is spreading by over 120,000 acres a year.

  • Economic losses occur widely due to reduced land productivity, and environmental losses occur due to competition with natural vegetation in sensitive areas, reducing biological diversity. Although chemical (herbicides) and mechanical (mowing) controls are used, there is currently no economically or environmentally affordable method of controlling kudzu.

  • Biological control, using safe natural enemies, appears to be the best option for management of kudzu.

  • As part of this program, ARS scientists C. Douglas Boyette and Hamed K. Abbas, located at the Southern Weed Science Research Unit in Stoneville, Mississippi, in collaboration with H.L. Walker at Louisiana Technical University, isolated a strain of the fungus Myrothecium verrucaria from sicklepod.

  • Sicklepod, Senna obtusifolia, is an introduced leguminous weed of agronomic crops that is found in the southeastern United States. The fungal strain from sicklepod that was tested against kudzu is relatively broad spectrum, including some crops and some weeds, but not including economically important hardwood and softwood trees. However, it can be used safely because it is applied as a living herbicide, and doesn't spread to untreated areas. In greenhouse and field studies, the scientists found that the strain killed 100 percent of kudzu tested.

  • The researchers are doing extensive toxicological studies on the fungus, and are pursuing a bioherbicide patent.

Scotch thistle, Onopordum acanthium

  • Scotch thistle is an extremely invasive thistle weed that occurs in at least 35 States, primarily California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. It is an important invasive weed in croplands, grasslands and natural areas.

  • Scotch thistle is also a serious weed in Australia, and the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has worked on biological control of the weed for over 15 years. Several potential biological control agents have been tested, and the United States is capitalizing on this research.

  • Three weevils species are being evaluated for release in the United States. Testing on the first species (Lixus cardui) indicates that native Cirsium spp. thistles may be attacked, and it is likely that this species will not be proposed for release.

  • A new species of Lixus from France is currently being tested at the ARS Exotic and Invasive Weed Research Unit in Albany, California, and appears promising. The third weevil species, which attacks rosettes (Trichosirocalus n. sp.), was collected in Spain this summer, and is currently the most highly rated candidate.

  • Biological control of Scotch thistle will be a long-term project, and other Federal, State and international partners are closely involved in planning and implementation of the project

Old World climbing fern, Lygodium microphyllum

  • Lygodium is an invasive weed in south Florida where it threatens many wetland communities in the Everglades ecosystem.

  • Lygodium is native to wet areas in the Old World tropics and subtropics from west Africa to eastern and southern Africa, and eastern India through southeast Asia to northern Australia and the Pacific to Tahiti.

  • The fern entered Florida as a commercial ornamental plant and was first documented to have become naturalized in 1965. However its explosive growth and rapid spread are relatively recent and it is now causing concern because of its dominance of native vegetation in many communities. In the last two years alone, it has increased from 60,000 acres to more than 100,000 acres.

  • Lygodium is considered to be a good target for biological control. First, it belongs to a taxonomically isolated group, not closely related to native or economic plants in Florida. Second, the plant is not known to be a weed in its native distribution. Third, non-biological control methods are environmentally damaging and too expensive to use on the scale required to control the plant.

  • The ARS biological control program is currently focused on surveys for natural enemies of Lygodium species in the fern's native range, including Australia and Southeast Asia. Preliminary surveys in Southeast Asia and Australia have identified promising natural enemies, including pyralid moths and sawflies.

  • Host specificity research will be conducted in our Brisbane, Australia and Gainesville, Florida laboratories.

Arundo/Giant Reed, Arundo donax

  • Arundo/giant reed, is the largest and most aggressive member of the three species that are known to the genus. It is native to tropical and temperate regions of the old world and is thought to originate on the Indian Subcontinent of Asia.

  • It is now found from the Mediterranean Sea to Sri Lanka and is expected to occur in other parts of Southeast Asia. A. donax was thought to be introduced into the United States in the 1700s by French settlers and was used as both windbreaks and as roofing materials.

  • It was first documented in California in the early 1800s by early Spanish settlers in the Los Angles area. It has now extensively spread throughout the state and is found infesting riparian areas from the Mexican border to areas well north of San Francisco along the coast and up to Redding in the Central Valley.

  • Arundo readily invades riparian channels, especially in disturbed areas and reduces ground-water recharge, compromises water quality, chokes riverside and stream channels, and interrupts surface water flow and flood control, contributes to mosquito habitat, displaces native plants, eliminates native habitat for wildlife, and poses extreme fire danger.

  • It has been cited as being responsible for the loss of two major freeway bridges in southern California during flood conditions as plant debris builds up under these structures and has caused extensive water damage costing millions of dollars in Riverside County.

  • ARS is working with several groups in California to both understand Arundo growth and development and to locate, test and potentially introduce new biological control agents for this pest plant.

  • Chemical control is extremely costly and requires several follow up treatments including the removal of old plant debris.

  • Biological control offers the best option for long-term, affordable and environmentally friendly management of Arundo. The ARS European Biological Control Laboratory (Montpellier, France) in cooperation with ARS Albany have initiated a foreign exploration program in 1999 which has already located potential agents in the Mediterranean Basin and have additional trips planned this winter into India and Sri Lanka.

Cape or German Ivy, Delairea odorata

  • Cape ivy, also known as German ivy, is a perennial South African vine that was introduced into the United States as an ornamental plant. This vine (referred to as Senecio mikanioides in older literature) has become naturalized and a serious pest in several states.

  • In California, it now occurs along the entire coastline, from San Diego to southern Oregon, where it smothers and replaces native vegetation in a variety of natural habitats, including scrubland, grassland, riparian forests, as well as fence lines, right-of ways, pastures, and tree plantations.

  • In Hawaii, this vine has become naturalized at numerous drier, upland sites on the Big Island, at elevations ranging from 1700-7700 ft.

  • Numerous federal and state parks and reserves in both states are impacted by Cape ivy. As an example, Golden Gate National Recreation Area has received a $600,000 award from National Park Service for controlling Cape ivy during 1999-2000. The National Park Service considers it as a threat to 12 listed or rare native plant species, two federally listed butterfly species, as well as compromising the habitats for freshwater shrimp and Coho salmon.

  • In 1998, USDA-ARS, with the assistance of numerous environmental and government agencies, launched a biological control project targeting Cape ivy.

  • ARS conducts research on Cape ivy at our Albany, California, laboratory, as part of the Exotic and Invasive Weed Research Unit.

  • ARS established a cooperative project in South Africa, and local scientists there are completing an initial survey of natural enemies of this vine. Over 200 insect species have already been found attacking Cape ivy in South Africa, and a half-dozen show promise as potential biological control agents.

  • Host range evaluations of some of these potential agents are scheduled to begin in 2000.

  • Partnerships will be developed with citizens and groups affected by Cape ivy on the mainland and in Hawaii.

Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis

  • ARS scientists stationed at the European Biological Control Laboratory conducted detailed ecological investigations over several years to determine the natural enemy complex for yellow starthistle. High priority natural enemies were tested for safety.

  • Five biological control agents have been established for yellow starthistle: two flies, Urophora sirunaseva (released in 1984) and Chaetorellia australis (1988), and three weevils, Bangasternus orientalis (1985), Larinus curtis (1992) and Eustenopus villosus (1990). This complex of natural enemies is widely established, and contributes to reduce yellow starthistle.

  • In 1996, ARS scientists discovered that a new fly, Chaetorellia succinea, was established. It was determined that this cryptic species, nearly identical to C. australis, was probably a contaminant in a shipment from Greece in 1991.

  • Host-specificity testing of the new fly is being completed, and preliminary indications are that it is unlikely to cause significant damage to non-target species, and may help in biological control of yellow starthistle.

Tropical Soda Apple (TSA), Solanum viarum

  • TSA has been called "the plant from Hell." It was introduced into southern Florida from Brazil several years ago. The plant is now well established over half of the Florida peninsula, and is rapidly spreading from southern Florida to other states of the South, with serious outbreaks confirmed in Georgia and Mississippi, and sightings as far north as Pennsylvania.

  • TSA is a serious pest primarily in pastures and uncropped areas but has the potential to invade cropped fields as well.

  • The most important means of spread of TSA is through the manure of cattle. Seeds have also been spread in bags of composted manure sold to gardeners, and in hay from infested pastures, as well as by wildlife.

  • TSA is a coarse plant with attractive fruits that animals like, and when they eat the fruits it takes a week or more for the seeds to pass through the digestive system. Cattle that have grazed in infested pastures need to be quarantined during that period to avoid spreading the weed.

  • Natural enemies of TSA and other Solanum spp. are being sought in Brazil by ARS and partners.

  • ARS conducts research on TSA at three locations: Tifton, Georgia (biology and life cycle characteristics of TSA; screening for herbicide efficacy on TSA); Orlando, Florida (control of TSA in vegetable production systems); and Stoneville, Mississippi (survey data; establishing how the weed is spread; physiology and biological control of TSA).

  • In all cases the work is cooperative with APHIS, Cooperative Extension Service, State Experiment Stations, and other agencies. An informal working group involving State and Federal personnel from Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and North Carolina meets regularly to share information and coordinate efforts.

  • ARS research established that TSA is well adapted to conditions as far west as Austin, Texas, and that it is potentially a more serious pest in the Mississippi Delta than in Florida. ARS cooperative research involving all three locations has developed a promising management strategy to gain control of the weed.

  • Biologically based management of TSA may be the best long-term, sustainable solution to this invasive weed.

  • ARS will continue current work on TSA; jointly with State Experiment Stations and other Federal agencies, develop and expand a coordinated approach to this invasive exotic weed. We will develop improved methods of detection and control of TSA, and decreased rate of spread to new areas.

  • If acceptably specific biological control agents are found in South America, their use could help reduce the spread of TSA, and may be the only mechanism available for cost-effective management in the long term.


Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB), Anoplophora glabripennis

  • The ALB, a pest of hardwood trees, invaded the United States from China. First discovered in Brooklyn, NY, in 1996, the beetles have also damaged and killed maples and horse chestnuts in Chicago and on Long Island, NY. The beetle larvae bore into hardwood and cause severe damage to many trees, including sugar maples, apple, ash, birch, black locust, elm, hibiscus, mulberry, poplar, aspen, Russian olive and willow.

  • ALB have been reported in warehouse cargo in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. Action agencies have been attempting to eradicate the beetle by destroying infested trees.

  • Unless eradicated, the ALB could denude Main Street U.S.A. of shade trees, affect lumber and maple sugar production, threaten tourism in infested areas, and reduce biological diversity in forests. Billions of dollars could be lost.

  • ARS has developed a research program in alignment with a Science Advisory Panel convened to address programmatic needs, as verified by the States of New York and Illinois and the USDA Forest Service. Congressionally appropriated new funds and temporary funds are being used to support both State and Federal agencies. ARS is developing technologies that will be used by APHIS for eradication. Long-term management strategies are being developed in the event that this pest cannot be eradicated. ARS has developed a 5-year research and action plan with its cooperators that include ALB fundamental biology and systematics; population ecology and dispersal; detection and survey; biological control; chemical, cultural, and mechanical control; and IPM.

  • The USDA response to this threat is a model of collaboration for work on a newly introduced insect pest. USDA imposed an interim ban on import of untreated wood products from China last December, and is working on a permanent rule for regulating the import of untreated wood from around the world. These actions are essential for stopping and slowing the entry of invasive pests, including more Asian longhorned beetles. APHIS, with support from the Forest Service and many State and local partners, is leading an aggressive survey effort to ensure existing Asian longhorned beetle populations are detected and eradicated.

  • APHIS, ARS and FS are conducting a coordinated research and development program to provide new knowledge and technology essential for more effective survey and control. In particular, two pheromones that attract ALB in laboratory tests were isolated by ARS scientists at the Insect Chemical Ecology Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, and were tested in the field in China. If the tests are ultimately successful, a pheromone-based trap may be developed with partners.

  • At the ARS Beneficial Insects Introduction Research Unit in Newark, Delaware, work has progressed in determining ALB biology (in collaboration with the State University of New York at Syracuse). ALB was found to disperse 1400 m per year, much farther than the 100-200 m previously reported. This information can be used by APHIS to readjust quarantine boundaries.

  • Also, in collaboration with ARS’ Sino-American Biological Control Laboratory and the Chinese Academy of Forestry, work has been initiated to define the natural complex of the ALB and related beetles in China, information necessary for importation of natural enemies of the beetle. A wasp and a parasitic beetle show particular promise as biological control agents. Finally, improved methods for detecting infested trees are being developed in collaboration with the State University of New York at Syracuse. Movements by ALB larvae can be differentiated from carpenter ants, even against significant background noise. Currently, APHIS is relying on sight to identify beetle holes in trees to determine which trees need to be removed.

  • In cooperation with Cornell University, work is underway to identify and develop pathogens from the ALB’s native distribution, as well as to evaluate North American strains of a fungal pathogen used extensively to control beetle pests (including development of bait trap methods for pathogen auto-dissemination), to develop wood-and cellulose-based diets for rearing ALB, to translate Chinese literature and, in cooperation with Beltsville, Maryland, to prepare an identification guide. IPM support is being provided to Newark, Delaware.

  • USDA is working with many partners with other Federal agencies, universities, local and State governments to increase public awareness and participation in combating this serious pest.

Glassy-winged Sharpshooter (GWSS), Xylella fastidiosa /Pierce’s Disease (PD)

  • GWSS strains cause a number of devastating diseases of agricultural crops, ornamentals, and forest and shade trees. These include PD of grapevines, almond leaf scorch, phony peach, plum leaf scald, oleander leaf scorch, and leaf scorch diseases of oaks, maples and sycamores.

  • With the arrival of the GWSS vector in southern California in the mid-1990’s, potential damage to agricultural and ornamental crops is now acute. Over 700,000 acres of wine, table, and raisin grapes in California are threatened (current value $2.8 billion per year), as is California’s $9 billion per year wine industry. California growers have no effective means for controlling PD or its GWSS vector.

  • On January 21, 2000, Deputy Secretary Richard E. Rominger and ARS Administrator Floyd P. Horn charged the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Pacific West Area and National Program Staff to assess research and implementation needs for combating the GWSS and PD epidemic. On February 17-18, 2000, ARS convened a Response Team of senior level technical experts and program managers to provide this assessment.

  • The near-term focus is reduction of GWSS populations, since methods to combat PD directly are more problematic.

  • In late 1999, APHIS allocated temporary funding ($360,000) for insecticide treatments to citrus and grapes. APHIS, ARS [represented by T. Henneberry (Phoenix) and E. Civerolo (Davis)], and the California Department of Agriculture (CDFA) are coordinating a pesticide trial on citrus, expanding pesticide trials to grapes, and developing a plan for the 2000 season. Particular attention will be given to immediate treatment of grapevines at the border of the vineyards, where GWSS adults were observed by the Team to be accumulating.

  • ARS provided $100,000 temporary funding in FY 1999 to the University of California (UC) as part of a greater effort to develop an integrated pest management plan for PD. These funds will be used to determine GWSS biology (UC-Riverside) and behavior and to develop molecular markers for identifying host resistance genes in grape (UC-Davis).

  • The State of California has appropriated $750,000 per year for three years for PD research, to be matched by $250,000 per year grower funding. GWSS/PD Task Forces (State or Governor’s; University of California) were convened to determine research needs, and a separate review panel is in the process of allocating these funds.

  • Other funding ($250,000) by the local governments in Temecula City and Riverside County is available for additional research.

  • ARS (Davis), with UC-Davis and CDFA researchers, will cooperatively evaluate Actigard to induce resistance to Xf infection in the Temecula Valley this season.

  • ARS (Weslaco), with UC-Riverside and CDFA researchers, have initiated efforts to explore for biological control agents of GWSS.

  • ARS (Kearneysville), with UC-Riverside, will investigate the feasibility of adapting ARS-developed kaolin clay technology (Engelhard Corp.) to repel GWSS from grapes.

  • If suitable, and desired by its California partners, ARS (Phoenix) will transfer its silverleaf whitefly ELISA monitoring technology to California researchers for adaptation to GWSS.

Small Hive Beetle (SHB), Aethina tumida

  • SHB is an exotic nitidulid beetle, native to South Africa. It was first observed in Florida in honey bee hives in St. Lucie County in June of 1998 by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).

  • During July 1998 SHB was found in five other counties in Florida. The bee colonies in these counties were put under state quarantine, and their movement out of the state was banned. However, since then additional infested hives have been reported in 11 states - Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa. In some cases, entire bee yards have been destroyed by SHB which feeds on brood and fermenting honey.

  • Over 1000 hives are estimated to have been lost to SHB. Bees are known to abandon the beetle infested hives. Consequently, this introduced pest from South Africa is causing a high level of anxiety in U.S. commercial beekeepers, both in the southeastern United States, as well as in the entire national bee industry.

Pink Hibiscus Mealybug (PHM)

  • PHM was first reported in the Western Hemisphere (excluding Hawaii) in Grenada in 1994, where it was found infesting several crops.

  • The immature stages of PHM feed on plants and cause damage by injecting a toxin.

  • PHM can infest, reproduce, and cause severe damage on 200+ genera in 70 different families of plants, including cotton, citrus, many vegetables, grapes, ornamentals, and other species of major importance to U.S. agriculture. APHIS has estimated the mealybug’s potential cost to the U.S. at $750 million per annum.

  • Since its first detection in Grenada, it has spread rapidly through the Caribbean Islands where it is causing damage in the U.S. Virgin Islands of St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix, and Puerto Rico. In 1999, it was discovered to have invaded the mainland, in southern California (south of San Diego), where it is considered to be an established, invasive species. This rapid spread and wide host range, makes the PHM a severe threat to agriculture in the United States.

  • To slow the spread and reduce damage caused by this pest, APHIS, in collaboration with ARS, has implemented a biological control program throughout the Caribbean Basin. On some islands, e.g., St. Kitts, this effort has already caused the pest to decline to tolerable levels. The program has now been transferred to California; however, it is not known whether parasites currently available for release, ones adapted to moist subtropical areas, will be effective in the hot, dry areas of southern California.

  • ARS has assisted APHIS in this program through the collection, identification, quarantine clearance, and delivery of biological control agents from Africa, Asia, and Hawaii. APHIS is also using ARS Caribbean facilities to rear parasites for release. ARS is working with APHIS to develop a pheromone-based trap.

  • In FY 1998, ARS expanded its biological control program in Southern Florida to assist in controlling exotic insect pests such as the PHM, by adding two new SYs to Ft. Pierce; this laboratory collaborates with work in the Caribbean area. Temporary funding ($200,000) from FY1999 will be used in FY 2000-2001 to conduct research in France, Australia, Beltsville, and at the University of California-Riverside to address the PHM problem in California, primarily by expanding biological control/integrated pest management and pheromone-isolation efforts.

  • ARS believes that exotic insect pests such as the PHM, the Paracoccus marginatus mealybug (now in the Dominican Republic), vine mealybug, silverleaf whitefly, brown citrus aphid, thrips palmi, citrus root weevil, and others, will continue to be major problems for United States agriculture.

  • ARS agrees with APHIS that a specific “SWAT Team” approach is needed to address these threatening pest problems and that whenever possible, these problems should be addressed before the pests invade the United States.

Imported Fire Ant (IFA), Solenopsis invicta

  • IFA currently infests over 300 million acres in 13 southern States. Since February 1997, there have been periodic infestations of fire ants in California. Some of these infestations in almond orchards in Karen County were traced back to infested bee hives imported from other States for almond pollination.

  • In November 1998, new infestations in two nurseries and 70 ant mounds along a roadside in Orange County near Irvine in Southern California were reported. This infestation was later found to cover 18 acres. Periodic seasonal infestations expand as far north as Maryland and Pennsylvania.

  • ARS scientists, together with APHIS experts, serve on the Science Advisory Panel set up by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) in 1998. CDFA and the Panel recommended two strategies: a short-term strategy includes treatment of all mounds with baits, insecticidal drenches and granules (and even hot water) to reduce the IFA populations; and a long-term strategy includes a minimum of two aerial bait applications per year for a four- to five-year period, and biological control using imported natural enemies.

  • In 1999, ARS released the first natural enemy of IFA, a phorid fly, in Florida. It is established at some sites, and is spreading slowly. Augmentation of the distribution of the phorid is needed, and is being pursued by ARS with our customers and partners.

Fruit Fly, Bactrocera spp.

  • The guava fruit fly, the Oriental fruit fly, and several other related flies of the genus Bactrocera are characterized by the males being attracted to methyl eugenol.

  • ARS scientists in Hawaii and elsewhere developed an extremely effective, economical eradication procedure, called the male annihilation technique, which takes advantage of this feature to lure males to insecticide-treated traps where they are killed.

  • The attractant is very potent and this technique has been used on numerous occasions to eradicate Oriental and related flies in California and elsewhere.

Africanized Honey Bees (AHB), Apis mellifera

  • These species are well established in Arizona, California, New Mexico, Puerto Rico, Texas, and part of the Virgin Islands. During FY 1997 AHB expanded their range only slightly in Texas and New Mexico. However, in Arizona they crossed over the central mountain range and are now found in all counties and at altitudes below 8,000 feet elevation.

  • It is now conceivable that they will reach the Four-Corners area within 1-2 years. In California, Africanized bees have reached San Diego and are in Los Angeles. The most recent data from ARS traps along the Rio Grande River indicate that over 80 percent of swarms captured are Africanized. ARS anticipates the migration of AHB to Louisiana.

  • Methods developed by ARS are effective for control of AHB swarms and removal of feral foraging populations on high-usage public land.


West Nile Virus (WNV)

  • WNV is an arthropod (insect)-borne virus.

  • It was isolated in the Western Hemisphere for the first time in the summer of 1999. The virus infects people, birds and horses and was isolated from several mosquito species. While the virus causes a mild disease in healthy human adults, it can be severe in the very young and elderly.

  • In New York City, which seemed to be the epicenter of the infections, at least 5 people died of the disease in 1999. On Long Island approximately 20 horses were infected and a significant number of those died from the disease. A number of bird species were affected both in zoos in New York and Connecticut as well as domestic crows in which there was a large die-off. Virus was isolated from dead birds and groups of mosquitoes in a number of Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic States.

  • The big question at the end of the mosquito season was whether the virus would overwinter in mosquitoes or animals. Unfortunately, the virus has been isolated from mosquitoes collected in early March 2000.

  • ARS has programs in place to help deal with the potential consequences of a WNV reappearance this year:

  • ARS scientists have infected chickens and turkeys to assess the risk of U.S. livestock to WNV virus. The species do produce virus but the virus, in these experiments, did not cause disease.

  • ARS has developed two new types of adult mosquito traps. In a cooperative effort with Yale, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Bronx Zoo, these traps are being used at the zoo to determine mosquito types at the zoo, to test trapped mosquitoes for presence of WNV and to determine feasibility of “trapping-out” as a means of mosquito control.

  • ARS and the CDC are cooperating in a risk assessment program based on previous geographic distribution information on the virus.

  • ARS continues to interact with the APHIS Emergency Preparedness Program and provides technical assistance for their efforts on WNV.

Plum Pox Virus (PPV)/Sharka Disease

  • Plum pox, caused by the PPV, is a very serious virus disease of Prunus species (stone fruits and some nuts) including peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, cherries, and almonds. It is transmitted by grafting and by several species of aphids commonly found in orchards.

  • PPV can cause losses of 80-100 percent in susceptible varieties due to lower yields and blotched or misshapen unmarketable fruit. Varying degrees of tolerance have been described and used in breeding programs, but high levels of natural resistance have not been described.

  • PPV has occurred in Europe and the Middle East for many years and in Chile since 1992. APHIS and ARS scientists positively identified PPV for the first time in the United States in October 1999 in commercial peach orchards in Adams County, Pennsylvania (near Gettysburg). Some growers reported seeing similar symptoms as early as 1997. The disease has a latent period in trees (period of time between infection and symptoms) of 3 to 5 years, so it is likely that the virus was introduced several years before.

  • APHIS and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture have placed the area of known infection under quarantine and are planning a program aimed at determining the extent of infection and eradicating the disease.

  • PPV is quarantined by most countries, including the United States, and importation of budwood and rootstock are prohibited from areas where PPV is known to occur. Quarantine actions would have a devastating impact on the Prunus nursery industry in Pennsylvania and wherever else the disease is found.

  • In the early 1990's, ARS scientists in Beltsville developed a rapid, sensitive and specific test for PPV. This test was used to confirm the presence of PPV in Pennsylvania. In 1991, ARS scientists in Kearneysville, West Virginia, developed genetically engineered plum trees that continue to show a high resistance to the virus. Regulatory and research planning sessions were held in Pennsylvania in December, 1999, to assist in the development of regulatory strategies and identify both short-term and long-term research objectives. From these sessions, a listing of research objectives and proposals was developed. NPS has shared a copy of this list with the National Peach Council.

Citrus Bacterial Canker (CBC), Asian Strain

  • CBC, caused by Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. Citri, is endemic in many citrus-production areas around the world. CBC quarantine actions by many countries affect international trade of fresh citrus fruit.

  • The disease has occurred from time to time in the U.S. where control involved quarantine and destruction of affected trees. An extensive eradication campaign in Florida from 1984 to 1992 cost $200 million and involved 20 million trees.

  • CBC was again identified in September, 1995, in the Miami area, likely introduced via fruit or nursery stock brought in from a foreign country. A 13.5 square mile residential area was initially affected. Subsequent spread has expanded the affected area to more than 280 square miles (including parts of Broward County) and the quarantine area to more than 500 square miles.

  • Florida counties infected by year are: 1995 – Dade; 1997 – Broward; 1998 – Manatee; 1999 - Collier, Hendry, West Palm, and Hillsborough.

  • The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has established the following restrictions in efforts to prevent spread: (1) no transport of fruit within 100 miles of the infected area to outside locations; (2) measures to prevent spread of the bacterium on workers’ clothing and equipment; (3) no movement of citrus through the Miami Airport or from Florida to California, Texas, Arizona, Puerto Rico, or Guam; and (4) destruction of all infected trees and removal of recent growth on all trees within a 125 ft. radius.

  • Recent ARS studies indicate that the 125 ft. distance should be increased to 1900 ft. This finding was the basis for a new rule that will be implemented as resources permit.

  • In late 1999, canker was detected in 45+ trees in a Homestead, Florida, commercial lime orchard. This is the first CBC detection south of Miami and a quarantine of this area will shut down the lime industry there.

  • In late 1999, canker was detected in 2+ trees on residential properties in Palm Beach. This is the furthest northward spread on the east coast and is a grave threat to the Indian River citrus producing area, which is only slightly further north.

  • In 1999, about $22 million was spent for survey and eradication. In 2000, the budget is $31 million.

  • To date, 250,000 trees have been destroyed, 114,000 on commercial orchards, 70,000 on abandoned groves, and the rest on residential properties.

  • ARS, at the request of APHIS and FDACS, assisted in determining the extent of infection, rate of spread, and foci of infection. As a member of the Florida Citrus Canker Risk Assessment Committee, ARS also helped review FDACS procedures and facilities for canker diagnosis.

  • ARS epidemiological studies have been the basis for current eradication policies and are used to estimate future spread and to target resources.

  • ARS supports APHIS, FDACS, and industry efforts to eradicate CBC in Florida.

  • ARS developed a DNA-based assay for rapid detection of the CBC bacterium.

Other ARS Programs Against Invasive Species
The USDA-ARS Areawide Pest Management Partnership Program: An Integral Component of the USDA-IPM Initiative

  • The USDA Land Grant University Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Initiative, commenced in 1994, reflects the redirection and combination of old and new resources of USDA and Land Grant University Programs into a single coordinated and cooperative effort with farmers, private consultants, and industry to achieve the national goal of IPM on 75% of the crop acres by the year 2000. ARS’ major contribution to this initiative, and within the framework of the Initiative’s Strategic Plan, resides within the Agency’s Areawide Pest Management Program, as well as with its ongoing base-funded IPM research projects.

  • In 1995 the Agricultural Research Service implemented an Areawide Pest Management Initiative with the goal of demonstrating the positive impacts and advantages to farmers and ranchers of such a program through increased grower profits, reduced worker risks from chemical pesticides, an enhanced environment, and a proven superiority of a strategy that incorporates biologically-based pest control technologies. Four multistate projects were put in place for invasive insect and weed pests and have resulted in widespread adoption of environmentally sound technologies by farmers and ranchers into IPM and sustainable agriculture systems. These pests included codling moth on apples and pears in the Pacific Northwest, corn rootworm in the Midwest, leafy spurge in the northern Plains, and stored product insects in the Midwest. The Areawide IPM Program focuses on management of pests where existing technologies (including pheromones, biological control agents and alternatives to chemical pesticides) are most effective when used over a multi-state or multiregional area. The success of the program is dependent on full partnering and participation between ARS, CSREES, FS, ERS, APHIS, SAES and extension facilities, farmers and ranchers, and other private sector (consultants, industry, etc.) entities.

  • Codling Moth Areawide Program. An areawide suppression for codling moth was implemented in 1995 in Washington, Oregon and California on apples and pears using pheromones to disrupt or prevent mating. Although this project was completed in 1999, additional funding has been provided for fiscal year 2000 to support the transition phase of the program for the growers. This was a five-year, ARS-led study out of Wapato, Washington to suppress codling moth populations and reduce damage below economic thresholds with a minimum use of pesticides. Populations of codling moth were reduced to almost undetectable levels at some of the project sites. The cost of control was less in the mating disruption-treated orchards than in orchards treated with conventional pesticides. The number of pesticide sprays were reduced in all mating disruption orchards and were entirely eliminated at most of the project sites. In 1994, before the areawide program was initiated, only 11,000 acres were treated with the mating disruption technology in Washington State. In 1999, more than 75,000 acres were under the technology. It is estimated that the orchard growers realize a savings of $400 per acre using mating disruption, since the use of the primary insecticide, Guthion, has decreased. Guthion is one of the organophosphate insecticides that could be impacted and lost as a result of the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 (FQPA).

  • Corn Rootworm Areawide Program. Corn rootworms are the targets of almost half of the insecticides used in row crops. ARS’ 5-year areawide IPM program in the Midwest states of South Dakota, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, and Iowa, as well as in Texas, using an adult corn rootworm attract and kill technology, has yielded corn rootworm reductions of more than 70-90 percent in most of the test sites after four years. A number of corn growers have expressed interest in undertaking their own programs using this new technology. A 90% reduction in the amount of prophylactic soil insecticide applied to U.S. corn grown in the Midwest United States could result in $300 million estimated savings. The program is led by ARS out of Brookings, South Dakota and was initiated in 1996.

  • Leafy Spurge Areawide Program. Leafy spurge, an exotic weed that costs millions of dollars in losses each year, infests over 1,000,000 acres of rangeland. The pest can be virtually eliminated by the use of insect natural enemies, grazing practices, and other technologies. ARS at Sidney, Montana has led an effort to design an areawide integrated pest management program to deal with this noxious weed. Field days, tours of control sites, and demonstrations of research technology have increased since the initiation of the program in 1997. Program managers and cooperators (TEAM Leafy Spurge) have been devising and demonstrating practical leafy spurge management strategies that can be applied to common habitats and land being utilized in the Upper Great Plains. During the 1998 field season, TEAM Leafy Spurge coordinated and provided timely collection and delivery of a total of 1.9 million Aphthona species beetles to TEAM Leafy Spurge researchers and weed managers in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. The leafy spurge areawide project has been initiated as a partnership between the ARS in Sidney, Montana; APHIS; North and South Dakota State Universities; and Montana State University; in cooperation with ranchers, FS, CSREES, the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and the state Departments of Agriculture, and will run through fiscal year 2001. In 1999, at the Spurgefest Field Day held on June 29 to July 1 in Medora, North Dakota, scientists involved with the program gave away an additional 10 million Aphthona flea beetles to ranchers and land managers.

  • Stored Grain Insects Areawide Program. In 1997 ARS implemented an areawide pest management program on stored grain insects in the Midwest United States, specifically in Kansas and Oklahoma. ARS scientists and scientists from Kansas and Oklahoma State Universities are the key participants in the stored-grain insect project, with farmers and operators of grain elevators as team members. It was determined that this project met the criteria of an areawide concept because grains are moved from the farm to country elevators or network and satellite elevators, to terminal elevators, to mills, and to overseas export terminals. This is analogous to the movement of insects between fields, except stored grain and the pests associated with them are transported by truck and railcar. Currently, phosphine gas and other insecticides are used for pest control in stored grains. The technology being used for this project will include early aeration to cool grain and decrease insect and mold population growth, as well as other technologies such as monitoring models for forecasting, safe grain-storage periods, sanitation, and other tactics as needed. This project will run through fiscal year 2001.

  • Fruit Flies in Hawaii. In fiscal year 2000, ARS initiated a fifth areawide program in the Hawaiian Islands for management of fruit flies using male annihilation, baits, biological control, and sterile male fruit flies as needed. The target species include Mediterranean, melon, oriental and Malaysian fruit flies. The overall goal is to suppress these pests below economic thresholds. Fruit flies, especially the oriental and Mediterranean, continue to show up in mainland United States, and the technologies being demonstrated in Hawaii could enhance suppression and eradication programs of these invasive species elsewhere.

  • Miscellaneous Other Areawide-Related Partnership Programs. From 1992-1999 ARS has led Federal and State scientists in a nationally-coordinated research effort to develop technologies for mitigation of the silverleaf whitefly problem in ornamental, vegetable, melon, and fiber crops across the southern United States, and in greenhouses. This insect has been responsible for over $ 2 billion in crop loss, damage, and control since its introduction into the United States in 1986. Areawide, community-based management approaches covering all affected commodities have emerged as the best strategy. Some crop management and community-oriented farm practices, such as water-use patterns, proximity of alternate host crops and spatial considerations have been implemented, resulting in whitefly population reduction. An excellent insecticide resistance management program has been implemented to conserve a major insect growth regulator (imidocloprid) found effective under the program. A number of other management tools have been developed and adopted by growers, including crop rotating, host-free periods, crop residue and weed destruction, host resistance, and biological control (fungi, parasites and predators). Overall losses have not increased in agricultural communities where the silverleaf whitefly is a factor in crop and horticultural production and have declined in a number of cases.

  • In Mississippi, an areawide project that was initiated in 1990 and completed in 1998 used early-season spraying of an insect virus to suppress populations of the bollworm and tobacco budworm, thus decreasing the need for chemical insecticide treatments for these cotton pests. With the advent of Bt cotton, however, farmers have not adopted the virus technology to any great extent, although if resistance develops, the virus technology could be a backup. This project was replaced in 1998 with an areawide pest management program for the tarnished plant bug and managed out of Stoneville, Mississippi. The Program uses new insecticidal chemicals, pheromone trap, natural enemies (in spring weed hosts), reduction of wild host plants and other IPM practices.

  • A community-based field trial study for control of the blacklegged tick and lyme disease by treating deer using a four-post feeding automated treatment system in the northeastern United States was implemented in 1997.

Dr. Ernest S. Delfosse

USDA, ARS, National Program Staff

National Program Leader for Weed Science

The George Washington Carver Center

5601 Sunnyside Avenue

Building 4, Room 4-2238

Beltsville, MD 20705-5139 USA
Telephone: 301-504-6470

Facsimile: 301-504-6191


NPS Service Center: 301-504-4650
Dr. Kevin J. Hackett

USDA, ARS, National Program Staff

National Program Leader for Biological Control

The George Washington Carver Center

5601 Sunnyside Avenue

Building 4, Room 4-2228

Beltsville, MD 20705-5139 USA
Telephone: 301-504-4680

Facsimile: 301-504-6191


NPS Service Center: 301-504-4650

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