A landscape-scale study from 2004 to 2006 investigated the spatial and temporal dynamics of a new pest to the Columbia Basin of the Pacific Northwest, the potato tuberworm, Phthorimaea operculella (Zeller). Male P. operculella were monitored in spring, summer, and fall each year with a pheromone-baited trapping network in Oregon and Washington. The objectives of the study were to (1) describe the temporal and spatial dynamics of the recent outbreak of P. operculella in the region and (2) examine the relationship of the spatial and temporal distribution of the outbreak and weather (air temperature, precipitation, and dew point) and geographic variables (elevation and latitude). Weather data during the P. operculella outbreak were compared with a reference period (1993–1999) that occurred before the outbreak. The outbreak in 2004, which caused the first widespread tuber damage in the region, was positively associated with warmer temperatures in the preceding fall and in the spring, summer, and fall of the growing season. October and November 2003 and March 2004 were also drier than the reference period. However, the winter of 2003/2004 was colder than the reference period and thus mild winter conditions did not explain the outbreak. The importance of environmental variables on the seasonal spatial distribution of the pest each year was examined using nonparametric multiplicative regression. Locations with higher spring, summer, or fall temperatures were associated with increased trapping rates in most seasons. Elevation and latitude seemed to play a constraining role, because low trapping rates of P. operculella were associated with higher elevations and latitudes.
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