The Australian tree Melaleuca quinquenervia (Cavanilles) Blake is an invasive weed in wetland systems of Florida. A biological control program targeting M. quinquenervia has resulted in the release of the gall forming midge Lophodiplosis trifida Gagné (Diptera: Cecidomyiidae). Populations of the introduced herbivore readily established at all 24 release sites across the weed's range in Florida, and there was no evidence that founding colony size (100,2,000, or 6,000 adults) influenced herbivore establishment or local population growth rates. Landscape level spread of L. trifida from release sites averaged nearly 6 km/yr, ranging as high as 14.4 km/yr. Prerelease host range testing predicted that L. trifida oviposits indiscriminately on test plant species but does not complete development on any of the test species, including congeners present in Florida. To test the predictability of these host range tests, L. trifida was released in a common garden consisting of 18 test plant species that were interplan ted with M. quinquenervia. Plant species postulated to be at risk experienced no gall development by L. trifida while intermingled M. quinquenervia trees supported 704.8 (± galls per plant. Historically, many introduced Cecidomyiidae have limited effect on plant performance of target weeds because of recruitment of native parasitoids that disrupt biological control efficacy. In contrast to this trend, there has been no evidence to date that parasitoids are exploiting L. trifida in Florida.
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Vol. 42 • No. 5