The researchers have conducted DNA tests that prove the flies recovered in 2010 and 2011 are identical to those they released. "Our experience now matches closely the Nova Scotia project wherein the yearly releases began in 1954, but no recoveries at all were made until 1959. Previous experience in Nova Scotia or British Columbia suggests that the levels of parasitism should now build rapidly in eastern Massachusetts over the next few years," Elkinton says.
"Now that we know that single releases with a few hundred flies can result in establishment here in New England, we can spread the flies we have to more new sites." He and his team have now released about 700 flies at each of nine new sites in 2011, including one in Rhode Island.
They also collected 61,000 winter moth pupae that contain C. albicans larva in British Columbia and have sequestered them in the USDA quarantine lab at Otis Air Force Base for release next year in Massachusetts. "Previous experience tells us that about 50 percent of these pupae will contain immature C. albicans. Assuming that we can successfully rear most of these to the adult stage next spring, by May 2012 we should have more flies to release than ever before," says Elkinton.
The UMass Amherst winter moth control project was begun in 2005 with support from the Massachusetts Legislature, and later the USDA and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. Though budget cutbacks threaten to slow progress, Elkinton is hopeful that efforts will continue to release flies at new locations, because it takes time for only a few thousand flies to catch up with the estimated trillions of winter moths now munching their way across eastern and central Massachusetts.
|Contact: Joe Elkinton|
University of Massachusetts at Amherst