For 25 years, USDA-APHIS' Plant Protection and Quarantine program's Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) eradication program has successfully battled back against the pest to significantly reduce its footprint. PPQ experts have established a solid response plan to eliminate the ALB and prevent its spread to other locations. Today, as part of PPQ’s ongoing efforts, scientists are evaluating a biological control (biocontrol) agent—Ontsira mellipes—for its potential to attack and kill ALB larvae.
This stingless parasitoid wasp is native to North America, abundant, and widely distributed across the continent. Ontsira mellipes attacks larvae of native woodboring cerambycids (longhorned wood-boring beetles) and the ALB—a non-native cerambycid—in laboratory tests. For this reason, scientists are hopeful that the wasp can aid ALB eradication efforts. To prove it they have teed up biocontrol field studies in the ALB quarantine area in Worcester, MA.
PPQ’s Science and Technology researchers Juli Gould, Carrie Crook, Mandy Furtado, and Theresa Murphy are working with colleagues from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and PPQ’s ALB response team to evaluate Ontsira mellipes as an effective biological control agent. They will conduct their 18-week study off the beaten path on conservation property in woodlots where public usage is limited, and ALB quarantine regulations are in place.