The exotic anthocorid Montandoniola moraguesi (Puton) was intentionally introduced in Hawaii and Bermuda for the control of thrips on outdoor plantings of ornamental Ficus. These successful programs resulted in similar efforts to introduce this predator at several locations within the continental United States. Such attempts to establish the bug as a component of biological control systems aimed at pest thrips apparently have been unsuccessful. Our surveys and requests for museum records revealed detections of M. moraguesi in four states: Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Circumstances surrounding detections in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi suggest that viable populations may not currently exist in those states. M. moraguesi occurs widely throughout peninsular Florida, wherever outdoor plantings of exotic, ornamental Ficus spp. are found. An updated distribution of M. moraguesi is provided along with field observations and new thrips host records.
Montandoniola moraguesi (Puton) (Hemiptera: Anthocoridae) (Fig. 1) is an important predator of several species of economically important thrips. Although originally described in France, M. moraguesi now is thought to be native to Southeast Asia (Herring 1967; Lattin 2000). Its reported distribution is essentially Old World. Populations are known from Africa (Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Western Sahara), Asia (Japan, Israel, Philippines, Micronesia), Australia, Europe (Canary Islands, France, Italy, Portugal, Sicily, Spain) and Bermuda (Carayon & Ramade 1962; Funasaki 1966; Herring 1967; Lewis 1973; Muraleedharan 1977; Muraleedharan & Ananthakrishnan 1978; Péricart & Halperin 1989; Postle et al. 2001). In the Western Hemisphere, it has been reported only from South America (Muraleedharan & Ananthakrishnan 1978), although it may exist throughout much of the Caribbean and Latin America. Its prey includes more than 20 species of gall-forming thrips (Table 1) from a wide variety of host plants (Muraleedharan & Ananthakrishnan 1978).
Because of its broad host range, M. moraguesi sometimes is a useful biological control agent against thrips. It has been successfully introduced for the biological control of Gynaikothrips ficorum (Marchal) (Thysanoptera: Phlaeothripidae) in Bermuda (Leighton 1978) and Hawaii (Funasaki 1966). In both areas, the bug became established and provided good, long-term control, but its establishment in Hawaii has caused biotic interference (Reimer 1988). In the continental United States, however, two attempted introductions in California (1965 and 1996) and at least one in Texas (1992) apparently have not been successful (Clausen 1978; Henry 1988; Paine 1992; Hanlon & Paine 2003).
The primary pest target of M. moraguesi in the United States has been the Cuban laurel thrips, G. ficorum. Feeding by this thrips, a pest of Chinese banyan Ficus microcarpa L. (Moraceae) (Paine 1992), causes the leaves to fold upward into galls where the thrips breeds and forms large colonies. Recently, a second species G. uzeli Zimmerman has become established in the United States (Held et al. 2005). Gynaikothrips uzeli, a pest of weeping fig, F. benjamina (L.), was accidentally introduced into Florida and is now being spread throughout the southeastern United States in shipments of ornamental weeping fig originating from nurseries in South Florida (Held et al. in press). The primary morphological difference between these thrips is the relative lengths of the pronotal posterolateral pair of setae, but a more practical way to distinguish G. ficorum from G. uzeli is by host-plant association: G. ficorum with F. microcarpa and G. uzeli with F. benjamina (Mound et al. 1995). Ficus microcarpa survive in plant zones 9-11, whereas F. benjamina survive in zones 10-11 (Turner & Wasson 1997).
The Cuban laurel thrips occurs in California, Florida, and Texas (Denmark 1967) in the continental United States. Even though the thrips has been known from Florida since at least 1887 (Denmark 1967), M. moraguesi was not detected in that state until 1990. The discovery of this anthocorid in Florida was based on adults and nymphs collected from curled and deformed Ficus leaves in Palm Beach County (Bennett 1995). No records of intentional introductions of M. moraguesi in Florida are available and its presence there might be due to unintentional spread through commerce or through natural means.
Although M. moraguesi has been detected in Palm Beach County, Florida, exact locality data have not been reported. Herein we confirm the establishment of M. moraguesi in South Florida 15 years after its initial detection, provide updated information on distribution, report records from museum searches in several states where the bug potentially could become established outdoors, summarize our field observations, and provide new prey records.
Materials and Methods
In the continental United States, plant zones 9-11, i.e., those areas capable of supporting outdoor populations of ornamental Ficus spp., encompass peninsular Florida, coastal Louisiana, southern areas of Texas and Arizona, and coastal California. Based on the premise that the distribution of M. moraguesi coincides with that of its prey (Bennett 1995), we surveyed these areas and/or requested specimen data from major entomological museums.
We conducted surveys in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Various techniques were employed, including visual inspection and shaking of leaves and stems of ornamental Ficus spp. over a collecting net. Adults were aspirated, preserved in alcohol, and transported to the laboratory for curation and identification.
Museum records were solicited from Alabama (Auburn University Entomology Museum, Auburn), Arizona (Arizona Department of Agriculture, Phoenix; University of Arizona, Tucson), California (California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco; California Department of Agriculture, Sacramento; San Diego Natural History Museum, San Diego; University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Davis; University of California, Riverside), Florida (Florida State Collection of Arthropods, Gainesville), Louisiana (Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge), Mississippi (Mississippi State University, Starkville), Texas (Texas A & M University, College Station), and the District of Columbia (National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.). We also solicited data from the collections of John D. Lattin (retired) (Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR) and Tamera Lewis (USDA, ARS, Wapato, WA), both of whom have collected anthocorids from southern California.
Acronyms used are FSCA (Florida State Collection of Arthropods, Gainesville, FL), LSU (Louisiana State University Entomology Museum, Baton Rouge, LA), MIS (United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Plant Protection and Quarantine, Miami Inspection Station, Miami, FL), NMNH (United States National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.), and SHL (United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Southern Horticultural Laboratory, Poplarville, MS).
Results and Discussion
Based on field searches and museum records, specimens of M. moraguesi are reported from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi (Fig. 2). In Alabama and Mississippi, it was taken only in retail garden centers, therefore, field populations might not occur in those states. Little is known concerning the circumstances surrounding the single specimen housed at LSU. If populations persisted in that state, one might expect the LSU collection to contain additional specimens.
The following locality label data are provided for M. moraguesi in the continental United States: Alabama: Mobile Co., Mobile, Home Depot Garden Center, 30.674N, 88.224W, 1♀, Ficus benjamina infested with Gynaikothrips uzeli, 12-XI-2004, D. Boyd (SHL). FLORIDA: ALACHUA CO., 3♂, 1♀, on Ficus sp., 21-V-2005, J. Brambila (MIS); Florida: Brevard Co., Indialantic, 1♀, Ficus retusa, 23-XII-1991, K. Garret-Kraus (NMNH); Broward Co., Pompano Beach, 10 specimens, pred. on Gynaikothrips ficorum, 30-VIII-1991, F. D. Bennett (FSCA); Pompano Bch, 6♂, 6♀, Pred/Gynaikothrips ficorum/Ficus, 19-XI-1991, F. D. Bennett (FSCA); Pompano Beach, 6 specimens, pred. on Gynaikothrips ficorum on Ficus sp., 19-XI-1991, F. D. Bennett (FSCA); Collier Co., Everglades City, 2 specimens, ex Gynaikothrips ficorum on Ficus sp., 3-V-1992, F. D. Bennett (FSCA); Hillsborough Co., Tampa, Busch Gardens, 3♂, 1♀, on Gynaikothrips ficorum on Ficus, 6-XI-1992, F. D. Bennett (USNM); Lee Co., Ft. Myers, 7♀, host Gynaikothrips ficorum on Ficus, 2-V-1992, F. D. Bennett (NMNH); Manatee Co., Bradenton, 2♂, 9♀, host Gynaikothrips ficorum, on Ficus, 8-XI-1992, F. D. Bennett (NMNH); Martin Co., Stuart, 7♂, 8♀, host Gynaikothrips ficorum/Ficus microcarpa, 12-VIII-1992, F. D. Bennett (NMNH); Miami-Dade Co., Miami, 3 specimens, 143 Ave., ex Ficus aurea, 15-V-2001, Ed Putland FSCA# E2001-2090 (FSCA); Miami, SW 137 Ave. and 172 St., 6 specimens, ex Tabebuia pallida, 14-X-2002, Holly Glenn, FSCA# E2002-5207 (FSCA); Miami, 68 St. and 102 Ave., 3 specimens, sweep net, 7-IV-2004, J. Durand (FSCA); Miami, 68 St. and 102 Ave., 1 specimen, sweep net, 31-III-2004, J. Durand (FSCA); Goulds, SW 232 Ave., 7 specimens ex Ficus benjamina, 21-IV-2004, Eduardo Camero, FSCA# E2004-2958 (FSCA); Homestead 232 St. and 137 Ave., 1 specimen, ex Ficus microcarpa, 9-V-2002, Mario Hernandez FSCA# E2002-1796 (FSCA); Miami, 143 Ave., on Ficus aurea Nutt., 15-V-2001, Ed Putland, FSCA# E2001-2090 (FSCA); Miami, 68 St. at 102 Ave., 3♂, 2♀, ex Ficus sp., 31-III-2004, J. Durand (MIS); Miami, 68 St. at 102 Ave., 3♂, 1♀, ex Ficus sp., 7-IV-2004, J. Durand (MIS); Miami, 68 St. at 102 Ave., 7♂, 2♀, ex Ficus sp., 17-II-2005, T. Dobbs (MIS); MONROE CO., Key Largo, 91421 U.S. 1, 1♂, 2♀, ex Ficus sp. with Gynaikothrips sp., 5-IV-2005, T. Dobbs (MIS); Key Largo, 103880 U.S. 1, 3 nymphs ex Ficus sp. with Gynaikothrips sp., 5-IV-2005, T. Dobbs (MIS); Palm Beach Co., West Palm Beach, 4 specimens, pred. on Gynaikothrips ficorum on Ficus microcarpa, 23-III-1992, F. D. Bennett (FSCA); West Palm Beach, 5♂, 5♀, on Gynaikothrips ficorum/Ficus microcarpa, 23-III-1992, F. D. Bennett (NMNH); Pinellas Co., St. Petersburg, 9♂, 11♀, host Gynaikothrips ficorum on Ficus, 6-XI-1992, F. D. Bennett (NMNH). LOUISIANA: E. Baton Rouge Par., Baton Rouge, 1 specimen, on Ficus, 30-IX-1994, J. W. Tessmer (LSU). MISSISSIPPI: PEARL RIVER CO., Poplarville, 1 specimen, pred. G. uzeli on F. benjamina, 15-XI-2004, D. W. Boyd (SHL); Poplarville, 1 specimen, pred on G. uzeli on F. benjamina, 14-XII-04, D. Held (SHL); Poplarville, 1 specimen, pred. G. uzeli on F. benjamina, 05-I-2005, D. W. Boyd (SHL). We were unable to locate the original specimens detected in Palm Beach County in 1990.
Based on data from the Florida State Collection of Arthropods, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry, M. moraguesi is associated for the first time with Androthrips ramachandrai Karny on F. microcarpa, Holopothrips sp. on Tabebuia pallida (Lindl.) Miers, and Nesothrips sp. on Ficus aurea Nutt. (Table 1).
As stated by Bennett (1995), M. moraguesi is widespread in Florida where outdoor plantings of exotic ornamental Ficus spp. occur, and has now been detected as far north as Gainesville. In Miami-Dade Co., the bugs were observed in direct association with their thrips prey and were most easily detected by searching for untrimmed Ficus hedges with upcurled leaves. The anthocorids enter and remain in the curled leaves while feeding on all life stages of the thrips. Populations of Gynaikothrips and M. moraguesi were quite high in some instances, yet the plants we observed nearly always had significant new growth and showed no outward signs of ill health aside from moderate leaf distortion.
In Alabama, an adult M. moraguesi and associated nymphal exuviae were taken on a Ficus benjamina plant in a retail garden center in Mobile Co. No other specimens were located from that state. The plants at the garden center were obtained from a nursery in South Florida, and we assume that the M. moraguesi may have hitchhiked with plant material shipped from Florida to Alabama. Two adults and a nymph of M. moraguesi were collected in Pearl River Co., Mississippi, on F. benjamina plants infested with G. uzeli. The plants were traced to local retail nurseries that had, similar to the case in Alabama, originally received plant material from South Florida. An adult was captured in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, in 1994, two years after intentional releases in neighboring Texas. This record predates by a full decade similar finds in nearby Alabama and Mississippi. Whether the later records reflect a lack of concentrated collecting in the interim is unknown. We found no field populations of M. moraguesi in any other states, nor did we find museum specimens from other states. We found no specimens of M. moraguesi from California or Texas, although the bug has been introduced into those states to control thrips on Ficus plantings (Bennett 1995; Hanlon & Paine 2003). Even though outdoor Ficus plantings with suitable thrips hosts are found in other states, we suggest that in the continental United States field populations of M. moraguesi currently are restricted to peninsular Florida. Further investigation will clarify this.
Collection of this anthocorid in Alabama and Mississippi on plants shipped from Florida indicates its potential for spread through commercial trade. Its establishment along the Gulf Coast could provide needed biological control of G. ficorum and G. uzeli. However, M. moraguesi has been implicated in biotic interference in at least two cases (Reimer 1988; Bennett 1995; Hanlon & Paine 2003) and potentially can feed on thrips being used for the biological control of weed species.
The authors express gratitude to the following individuals for checking their respective institutional collections for specimens of M. moraguesi: Chris Baptista, Arizona Department of Agriculture; Cheryl Barr, University of California, Berkeley; Victoria Bayless, Louisiana State Arthropod Museum; Charles Bellamy, California Department of Food and Agriculture; Paisley Cato, San Diego Natural History Museum; Wayne Clark, Auburn University; Susan Halbert, Florida State Collection of Arthropods; Thomas Henry, National Museum of Natural History; Steven Heydon, University of California, Davis; John Lattin, Oregon State University; Tamera Lewis, USDA, ARS, Wapato, WA; Carl Olsen, University of Arizona; Norman Penny, California Academy of Sciences; Edward Riley and Joseph Schaffner, Texas A&M University. In addition, we thank Julieta Brambila, Susan Halbert, Thomas Henry, John Lattin, and A. G. Wheeler, Jr. for suggesting improvements to the manuscript, Michael Ferro, Louisiana State Arthropod Museum, for the photograph of M. moraguesi, Thomas Henry for taxonomic support, and Susan Halbert for providing M. moraguesi host records in Florida.