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Bugs as Bio-Control

Ascogaster_sp_(Cheloninae)

Image of an unidentified Ascogaster species.

University of Adelaide Ph.D. student Rebecca Kittel has discovered 18 new species of tiny parasitic chelonine wasps which have potential to be used as biological control (bio-control) agents as they specifically target individual varieties of moths.

The adult wasps inject their eggs into the eggs of host moths. The wasp larvae feed and develop inside of the moth caterpillars, emerging from the caterpillar as it dies. The larvae then form a cocoon until environmental conditions are right for the adult to emerge and the bio-control cycle begins again.

“The biology and the fact that each wasp species targets only one specific moth means that they are potentially ideal candidates for development as bio-control agents of agricultural pests,” says Kittel.

The wasps are among 150 new species discovered by Kittel. Specimens from around the country were sent to Kittel to identify, 250 of which were part of the 18 species published in her entry to the journal Insect Systematics & Evolution.

This article appears in the August 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.