Management of Pest Mole Crickets in Florida and Puerto Rico with a Nematode and Parasitic Wasp

N. C. Leppla, J. H. Frank, M. B. Adjei, N. E. Vicente

Abstract


Non-indigenous invasive mole crickets, Scapteriscus vicinus Scudder (Orthoptera: Gryllotalpidae) in Florida and S. didactylus (Latreille) (the “changa”) in Puerto Rico, are being managed with an entomopathogenic nematode, Steinernema scapterisci (Nguyen and Smart) (Rhabditida: Steinernematidae), and a parasitic wasp, Larra bicolor L. (Hymenoptera: Sphecidae). Pest mole cricket populations have declined by 95% in north central Florida since these specialist natural enemies were released and established in the 1980s. Commercial production of the nematode was initiated, nearly 70 billion were applied in 34 Florida counties, and their establishment, spread, and impact on mole crickets were monitored. The infected mole crickets dispersed the nematode rapidly, so that within 6 months these parasites were present in most of the insects trapped in experimental pastures. Three years later, mole cricket populations were reduced to acceptable levels and the bahiagrass had recovered. The nematode was released for the first time in Puerto Rico during 2001 and has persisted; the wasp was introduced in the late 1930s. The geographical distribution of the wasp is being expanded in Florida and Puerto Rico by planting plots of Spermacoce verticillata (L.), a wildflower indigenous to Puerto Rico and widely distributed in southern Florida. Pastures, sod farms, golf courses, landscapes, and vegetable farms in Florida and Puerto Rico are benefiting from biological control of invasive mole crickets.

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