Cactoblastis cactorum (Berg) (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) is a non-native moth attacking prickly pear cactus, Opuntia spp., in southeastern U.S. The insect is also an important threat to ecological systems and to native and endangered Opuntia spp. in southwestern USA. The egg parasitoid Trichogramma fuentesi Torre (Hymenoptera: Trichogrammatidae) was discovered attacking wild C. cactorum in Florida. To evaluate the potential effect of inundative releases of T. fuentesi against C. cactorum, the host searching behavior of T. fuentesi on C. cactorum eggs and host suitability of selected lepidopteran eggs were studied in the laboratory. Host suitability was studied on the native blue cactus moth, Melitara prodenialis Walker, and 6 selected species of butterfly eggs [Danaus plexippus (L.), Dryas iulia (Hübner), Junonia coenia (Hübner), Papilio glaucus (L.), Papilio polyxenes (F.), and Vanessa cardui (L.)] to assess the potential for non-target effects from T. fuentesi. The proportion of parasitism of the native cactus moth (M. prodenialis) was 98%; significantly higher than the non-native cactus moth, C. cactorum (11% average parasitism rate). The high proportion of parasitism for all native non-target species tested and the lowest proportion of parasitism for the exotic target species suggested that T. fuentesi not be considered for inundative releases in a biological control approach against C. cactorum.
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Vol. 96 • No. 4