Ambrosia in trouble

Ophraella communa. Peter-Toth

Ophraella communa. © Peter Tóth.

Peter Tóth (Slovak University of Agriculture) and Suzanne Lommen (University of Fribourg, Switzerland), who are both members of the COST SMARTER Management Committee, travelled in the southern part of Switzerland (Ticino) and northern part of Italy (around Milano) to screen various common ragweed populations (21-26 September 2013).

They came across Ambrosia (ragweed) plants that were being attacked by the exotic oligophagous leaf beetle, Ophraella communa (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). It was noticed that both larvae and adults fed on the leaves, stems and young generative organs of the plant. The entire ragweed populations were heavily damaged and in decline due to the large numbers of O. communa and heavy feeding rates. The presence of the leaf beetle offers new insights into the future biological control of ragweed in Europe. Although the species shows promise for the control of Ambrosia, many laboratory and field tests in the host range, as well as biological studies are required before it can become a reality. All of this will be studied by WG 1 – Biological control.

More pictures are available for SMARTER participants in the Extranet in the Images section. All pictures are available there in high resolution.