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Biological Control of Blackwood Pests with the Southern Ladybird

Sustainable Farming Fund application (2006/2007):

1.  Name of Applicant Group:  AMIGO

2. Applicant Group Profile (who are you?):
AMIGO is an action group within the N.Z. Farm Forestry Association. Currently we have over 200 members. Our objective is to bring together tree growers and forest researchers in an information sharing network. The control of blackwood pests is an important concern.

3. Contact Person: Ian Brown
Telephone: (07) 8434389
Fax: (07) 8434389

4.  Address: 109 Dixon Road, Hamilton.

5.  Short title of the project: Biological Control of Blackwood Pests with the Southern Ladybird.

6.  What is the problem/opportunity the project will address?
The Southern Ladybird, Cleobora mellyi, is presently only established in the Marlborough Sounds, in the South Island. Introducing the Cleobora ladybird into North Island Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) plantations could provide effective control over the two most significant pests of  Blackwood, psyllids and tortoise beetles. Psyllids cause poor form and slow growth of this valuable hardwood timber tree. The Blackwood Tortoise Beetle Dicranosterna semipunctata is a recent accidental introduction from Australia, first found in Auckland in 1998. It has spread throughout Northland, Hauraki and Waikato, and the levels of chewing damage are of major concern to Blackwood growers. In its native Tasmania, Cleobora preys on tortoise beetle larvae and eggs, and psyllids, and is considered a major control agent of these pests.
Plantation hardwood forestry has the potential to displace significant volumes of rainforest timber presently imported from overseas, and pests are the largest barrier to developing an economic industry based on this species, with its proven timber qualities and beautiful appearance.

7.  What previously completed work is relevant to this proposal?
The Eucalyptus Action Group in conjunction with Ensis have collected Cleobora from Blackwoods and Eucalypts in the Marlborough Sounds and with support from the Sustainable Farming Fund have reared this insect in captivity for the last two years. Both years the colony was accidentally destroyed at Ensis because of incubaotors malfunctioning,. This problem has been rectified and the incubators are now rigged up to an alarm system. A strong comittment from both Ensis and the Eucalyptus Action Group has seen good forward progress in efficient rearing techniques, and a resurrection of the project, which has ensured sufficient numbers of ladybirds are available to continue with the rearing programme. Small releases have been made into eucalypt plantations in the North Isand, but it is not yet known whether it has become established from these releases.
The Farm Forestry Association have built a website on the Cleobora ladybird and this website clearly explains with photos the complex issues and the potential this ladybird has for controlling a number of serious hardwood forestry pests in New Zealand.
Members of the Eucalyptus Action Group have assessed the distribution of the known population of Cleobora in the Marlborough Sounds area, where is is found both in eucalypts and blackwood. This has been recorded on the Farm Forestry website.
Feeding trials by the Eucalyptus Action Group have demonstrated that Cleobora eats both the larvae and the eggs of the Blackwood Tortoise Beetle. Blackwood psyllids are used for feeding and rearing Cleobora.

8.    Describe the work you propose to do in the project, clearly list what you are going to do.  
How will it help to solve the problem or take advantage of the opportunity?
What are your sharing outputs (who is the information going to and how eg field day, pamphlet, articles, website):

Biological control of pests is an environmentally sustainable pest management option that reduces or eliminates the need for insecticide sprays which can poison the environment and disrupt the balance of fauna.
As more ladybirds are reared the opportunity opens to release it in a larger geographical area. This allows it to establish throughout New Zealands hardwood plantations in a reasonable time-frame, as it appears to be slow to spread (based on its present distribution, having first established around 25 years ago).
The skills both within the Farm Forestry Association and Ensis have improved with experience, and the opportunity is there to cost effectively rear sufficient numbers of ladybirds for widespread releases. AMIGO has a large active membership which will  participate in both the release and also future monitoring of their plantations for the presence and effectivieness of the Cleobora ladybird.
Ensis have agreed to contribute resources to rear the larvae on an artificial diet, and post the pupa to Dean Satchell, who will feed the adults on a diet of live psyllids and produce eggs, which will then be posted to Ensis for rearing to pupaton. This method has proven the most efficient and successful, and was developed over the last two years.
Overwintering of adult Cleobora will take place at Ensis in controlled temperature facilities, and releases of adult ladybirds will take place over summer as numbers reared build up, and during spring when overwintered adults are available for release.
Mark Ross and Brendan Murphy from Biosecurity New Zealand are very supportive of the project, which with minimal investment could provide sustainable biological control of a number of serious hardwood forestry pests in New Zealand. The project also allows for building good working relationships between the Farm Forestry Association and government enterprises such as Ensis.
The Farm Forestry website will be updated as the project evolves, and information will be provided to members at field days and in the Tree Grower, the journal of the NZ Farm Forestry Association. Members of AMIGO will be updated regularly in their newsletter. A number of concerned growers have expressed interest in releasing Cleobora into their plantations.



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