What’s in the Fridge?”: Collections of Invasive Insect Pests from Around the World

By Mark Hoddle |

Anna Kuchment, Editor for Scientific American, produced a very nice article (“End of Orange Juice ” [Scientific American vol. 308 pp. 52-59, March 2013]) on the Asian citrus psyllid and huanglongbing situation in California, Florida, and other countries affected with this pest and disease.

During Anna’s visit to UC Riverside to cover this story, we pulled out insect specimens of other pests we are working on including the red palm weevil, gold spotted oak borer, and other potential invasive pests like the avocado seed moth, Stenoma catenifer . These collections, along with other insects like the big rhinoceros beetles that attack palms in Asia, interested Anna, and this led to her developing the “What’s in the Fridge?” series for Scientific American.

The inaugural release of “What’s in the Fridge? ” occurred in the July 2013 issue of Scientific American (vol 309 [1], pp. 18). Four insects are featured, the rhinoceros beetle that was collected in Sumatra Indonesia attacking newly planted oil palms. The coconut palm weevil, Rhynchophorus vulneratus , which has invaded Laguna Beach in southern California, but has not been detected for over 18 months despite trapping efforts. This species was synonomized with R. ferrugineus , the red palm weevil, but emerging results from molecular studies clearly show that R. vulneratus is a species distinct to R. ferrugineus, and the synomization of these two species was incorrect, hence we refer to this weevil as R. vulneratus. The gold spotted oak borer , an invasive pest native to southern Arizona, has killed > 22,000 native oak trees in southern California, and recent oak mortality estimates by Tom Scott , suggest that mortality may now be as high as 80,000 oak trees in affected areas in San Diego County. Avocado seed moth is a pest that is not yet in the USA, but increasing imports of fresh avocados from countries in Latin America where this pest is native may increase the chances of this pest accidentally invading and establishing in California, Florida, and Hawaii, states where avocados are grown commercially.

Claudia, Mark and Spencer
Claudia, Mark and Spencer examine insects for the shoot.

Claudia, Mark and Spencer examine insects for the shoot.

The photos for the “What’s in the Fridge?” piece were taken by Spencer Lowell who was assisted by Claudia Lucia . These guys made our disorganized lab freezer look amazing!

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