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As part of a biological control program for the invasive weed, Arundo donax L., several genotypically unique populations of the parthenogenetic stemgalling wasp, Tetramesa romana Walker (Hymenoptera: Eurytomidae), from Spain and France were released in an infested riparian zone along the Rio Grande from Brownsville to Del Rio, TX. An adventive population of the wasp of unknown origin with limited distribution in Texas was also discovered, evaluated, and released as part of the program. More than 1.2 million wasps representing the mixture of genotypes were aerially released from 2009 to 2011. Wasps dispersed from their original release locations and now have a continuous distribution along the Rio Grande from Brownsville to Del Rio, and have dispersed throughout most of Central Texas with satellite populations as far west as San Angelo (Tom Green County), north as far as Kaufman (Kaufman County), and east to Navasota (Grimes County). The most successful genotype (#4) represented 390 of the 409 wasps recovered and matched both an imported population from the Mediterranean coast of Spain and an adventive population established in Texas before the start of the biological control program. Several other European genotypes of the wasp released in the program apparently failed to establish. This result demonstrated the benefits of evaluating and releasing the maximum genetic diversity of the biological control agent in the introduced range. Abundance of T. romana on the Rio Grande from Laredo to Del Rio averaged 190% more in 2013-2014 compared to a similar study in 2008-2009 before release of the European wasps. A favorability index was developed that showed that conditions from 1969 to 1977 would have been adverse to the wasp; conditions after 2009 were more favorable. Climate matching predicts the wasp will disperse throughout the southern U.S. and Mexico.


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Southwestern Entomologist





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