, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 39-52

Integrated Pest Management of Pest Mole Crickets with Emphasis on the Southeastern USA

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Abstract

There are at least 70 species of mole crickets (Orthoptera: Gryllotalpidae). Some are rare, others are innocuous, and a few are important pests. These soil-dwelling pests damage underground parts of a long list of cultivated plants. Although tillage and flooding are used successfully in some situations to bring these pests to the soil surface and expose them to vertebrate and other predators, chemical pesticides are widely used against them. Knowledge of their life history is used to time application of chemical treatments to save money, but is not used as widely as it might be. Classical biological control has been used against immigrant mole crickets in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the southern USA. In Florida, three Scapteriscus species from South America cause major damage to pastures and turf and are targets of a classical biological control program. Population levels of two of the pest species have been reduced substantially in Florida by establishment of a tachinid fly (Ormia depleta) and a steinernematid nematode (Steinernema scapterisci) from South America. The nematode also functions as a biopesticide. Managers of pastures and turf in Florida have thus far derived benefit from these classical biological control agents without understanding their function: use of chemicals is reduced when mole cricket populations are lower due to action of these organisms. Future enhancement of the action of O. depleta and of a sphecid wasp (Larra bicolor, which also was introduced from South America) probably will demand deliberate planting of nectar sources for adults of these biological control agents, and the advantage will be to managers who adopt such a strategy. Chemical pesticide use is strongly promoted by a large chemical industry, whereas biopesticidal use has thus far been little promoted and sales have been few. Even managers who do not change their simple strategy of pesticide use in response to damage by mole crickets, and have no knowledge of the differing life cycles of the three Scapteriscus species or of the presence and action of the classical biological control agents, will derive benefit as these biological control agents (and a predatory beetle which has not yet been released) increase their distribution.