, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 273-281

Potential Non-target Effects of a Biological Control Agent, Prickly Pear Moth, Cactoblastis cactorum (Berg) (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae), in North America, and Possible Management Actions

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Abstract

Cactoblastis cactorum (Berg) (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae), the poster child of biological control, has recently invaded the United States. The first US record was at Big Pine Key, Florida, in 1989. Since then it has moved rapidly northward into South Carolina. Fears are high that it will disperse, either on its own, or with human help, into the US desert southwest and Mexico. There are at least 31 species of prickly pear in the US that are likely to be attacked by Cactoblastis and 56 species in Mexico. As well as the threat to wild cacti, there are over 250,000 ha of Opuntia plantations in Mexico that support a thriving agricultural industry, most of which is centered on harvesting fruits or pads. Possible control measures include classical biological control using parasitoids or pathogens from South America, chemical control or F1 sterility, as has been used successfully for the codling moth. However, most of these options appear to have insurmountable difficulties. Classical biological control raises the fear of further non-target effects of natural enemies on native cactus herbivores. Chemical control has potential non-target effects on other (rare) insects and is expensive. F1 sterility is also expensive and is not self-sustaining, requiring considerable and continual human input. Nevertheless, research on control options is vital as is further work on the rate of spread and impact of Cactoblastis in the United States Southeast, so that we can be as well prepared as possible to deal with this threat when it arrives in Arizona, California, and Mexico.