In 2017 the IPMG partnered with the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC), BiCEP Alliance, Forestry
South Africa, IPEF Brazil, Murdoch University, and Forest and Wood Products Australia to investigate a model system for the discovery and development of biocontrol agents against forest pests. As one the most important herbivorous insect pests affecting Eucalyptus plantations, the project is using Gonipterus weevils and their associated parasitoids to develop the model system. Historically only one species of weevil; Gonipterus scutellatus was thought to be involved. Recent studies however, have shown that G. scutellatus was misidentified and that a number of different Gonipterus species are responsible for damage in different parts of the world.
In Western Australia, the two main Gonipterus spp. present are not native and have caused significant levels of defoliation (>40%) to E. globulus plantations, reducing growth by 20-30% in some cases. These levels of damage have been attributed in part to large weevil population build ups over spring and summer due to the lack of natural enemies.
The model system being developed to assist future biocontrol efforts will:
- Use bioclimatic modelling to define probable distribution ranges of Gonipterus species
- Conduct systematic collections of Gonipterus adults, eggs and larvae
- Rear collected samples to obtain any parasitoids for identification
- Develop molecular primers to enable identification of Gonipterus spp. and their parasitoids
- Use molecular tools to validate the ranges of Gonipterus spp. and their associated parasitoids.
- Test this methodology as a proof of concept against other leaf beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae)
The final report for this project is due in April 2020. For further information contact Ian Dumbrell on +61 897910732.