When an unknown pest shows up, establishes and causes havoc, oftentimes researchers can be left scrambling for information on how best to develop eradication or management plans.
"We have seen this twice before in California with avocado pests, the persea mite, and the avocado thrips," Hoddle said. "Both were species new to science when they first showed up in the United States, and they are the worst two invasive pests California avocado growers need to manage. The persea mite, which is native to Mexico, has also spread to Costa Rica, Israel, and Spain where it attacks avocados."
Hoddle explained that in the case of Peruvian avocados, which are already being imported into California, he and his team want to be fully prepared for pests that could be invasive in California.
"We want to get ahead of the curve by proactively identifying any new pests, should they exist, and documenting in detail what damage they cause," he said. "We also want to identify any natural enemies they may have and how effective these biocontrol agents are."
The avocado seed moth can attack close relatives of the avocado, such as greenheart, an important timber tree in South America. The pest could possibly attack and survive on California bay laurel, a plant native to California that is closely related to the avocado.
"We have also found some generalist avocado pests in Peru that eat a variety of plants," Hoddle said. "One of these is the well known native bag worm, Oiketicus kirbyi, which can feed on more than a hundred different plants, including eucalyptus!"
Hoddle noted that Peruvian avocados exported to California arrive from export orchards certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"We have visited some of these orchards
|Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala|
University of California - Riverside