Geographic distribution and regional impacts of Oxyops vitiosa (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) and Boreioglycaspis melaleucae (Hemiptera: Psyllidae), biological control agents of the invasive tree Melaleuca quinquenervia

Publication Type:Journal Article
Authors:K. M. Balentine, Pratt, P. D., Dray, Jr., F. A., Rayamajhi, M. B., Center, T. D.
Journal:Environmental Entomology
Date Published:August
:Oxyops vitiosa

The invasive tree Melaleuca quinquenervia (Cav.) Blake is widely distributed throughout peninsular Florida and poses a significant threat to species diversity in the wetland systems of the Everglades. Mitigation of this threat includes the areawide release campaign of the biological control agents Oxyops vitiosa Pascoe and Boreioglycaspis melaleucae Moore. We summarize the results of this release effort and quantify the resulting geographic distribution of the herbivores as well as their regional impact on the target weed. A combined total of 3.3 million individual Melaleuca biological control agents have been redistributed to 407 locations and among 15 Florida counties. Surveys of the invaded area indicate that the geographic distribution of O. vitiosa encompasses 71% of the Melaleuca infestation. Although released 5 yr later, the distribution of B. melaleuca is slightly greater than its predecessor, with a range including 78% of the sampled Melaleuca stands. Melaleuca stands outside both biological control agents' distributions occurred primarily in the northern extremes of the tree's range. Strong positive association between herbivore species was observed, with the same density of both species occurring in 162 stands and no evidence of interspecific competition. Soil type also influenced the incidence of biological control agents and the distribution of their impacts. The odds of encountering O. vitiosa or B. melaleucae in cells dominated by sandy soils were 2.2 and 2.9 times more likely than those predominated by organically rich soils. As a result, a greater level of damage from both herbivores was observed for stands growing on sandy versus organic-rich soils.

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