Due to the extensive and severe damage caused by H. pungens in Puerto Rico, the USDA and FuEDEI started a classical biological control program against the pest. As part of the program, a survey was initiated in November 2010 of the natural enemies of H. pungens in its native range (Argentina) on Cactaceae and Amaranthaceae hosts (Triapitsyn, et al., 2014). Observations on the biology of H. pungens collected and reared on Amaranthaceae showed some differences with those collected and reared on cacti, suggesting that there may be a complex of species. Preliminary studies about the biology, genetic and taxonomy of H. pungens indicate that exist a species complex within H. pungens, and that the population present in Puerto Rico is an independent evolutionary lineage of H. pungens, but its identity is unknown.
*Identify and distinguish the members of the complex of HCM, and their host plants in Argentina, Puerto Rico, other Caribbean Islands, and Florida to establish the origin of the HCM pest species present in Puerto Rico.
*Search for host specific parasitoids of HCM in South America to be used against HCM in Puerto Rico.
*Develop a model that allows ranking a group of candidates for biological control agents of HCM in order to select the best candidates to be used. This model will be useful not only for the particular case of HCM, but also to be used for other biocontrol candidates.
Staff in charge:
- Hilda Diaz-Soltero, ISC-Washington DC.
- Ron Weeks, USDA-APHIS-PPQ, Raleigh, NC.
- Stephen Hight, USDA-ARS, Tallahassee.
- Christian Torres, Fundación Luis Muñoz Marín, San Juan de Puerto Rico.
- Lucía E. Claps, Instituto Superior de Entomología S. M. de Tucumán, Tucumán.
- Esteban Hasson, Departamento de Ecología, Genética y Evolución, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires.
- Fabián Font, Facultad de Farmacia y Bioquímica, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires.
- Octavio Bruzzone, INTA Bariloche, Río Negro.