Characterization of Queensland Longhorn Beetle (Acalolepta aesthetica Olliff) Distribution, Host Selection Preference, and Environmental Correlations in Puna District, Hawai‘i County, Hawai‘i.

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2022-12
Authors
Miles, Blake Jonathan
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Arancon, Norman Q.
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Tropical Conservation Biology & Environmental Science
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Abstract
Queensland longhorn beetle (QLB; Acalolepta aesthetica Olliff) is an invasive polyphagous plant-boring insect of Hawai’i County, Hawai’i, native to Australia (including Queensland). QLB presence in Hawai’i County was first reported circa July 2009 in a Hawaiian Acres residental property in Puna district. Current distribution range of QLB in Hawai’i County is believed to be expanding at a slow rate across Puna and into neighboring districts. Effective management of QLB constitutes region-specific studies including biology, ecology, life history, and reproductive behavior that are largely undescribed at present. Without effective management, unabated expansion to QLB population range and density in Hawai’i County may lead to disruptive environmental, economic, and cultural impacts, as well as heightened risk of QLB introduction to surrounding counties and United States mainland. A total of 1,087 trees – consisting of kukui (Aleurites moluccanus), breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis), trumpet tree (Cecropia obtusifolia), citrus (Citrus spp.), and cacao (Theobroma cacao) – were surveyed and analyzed to assess: (1) current distribution from October 2020 to March 2021; (2) host selection preferences; and (3) infestation-environmental correlations associated with the local QLB population. Analyzed plant taxa were situated among 20 private properties in Puna district (East Puna, Keaau, Kurtistown, Mountain View, Pāhoa); were sampled a minimum of 15 times; and were represented by at least five individuals infested with QLB larvae. Host range of QLB in Queensalnd, Australia is not known. Access to host species density data pertinent to Puna district were not available. Survey data was analyzed using R software (version 4.0.3) via mixed effects logistic regression modeling, multiple comparisons of means post-hoc analysis (Tukey contrasts), and DHARMa (R package model diagnostic tool). Mapping of active QLB infestations did not indicate presence of significant distribution, irrespective of host species. QLB distribution could be influenced by a combination of opportunistic infestation; host condition and stress; and aggregation pheromone synergism. Kukui was significantly preferred by QLB over trumpet tree, citrus, and breadfruit. Cacao was also significantly preferred by QLB over trumpet tree, citrus, and breadfruit. Preferred host selections could be driven by reception to specific and complex phytochemical motifs, many of which contain phenolic and terpenoid compounds. QLB infestation among cacao and breadfruit trees correlated strongly and positively with annual precipitation (mm), with breadfruit infestation also correlating strongly and positively with elevation (m). Attraction to breadfruit and cacao trees may be attributed to host physiological stress from excess precipitation exposure. Relationship of precipitation in influencing QLB infestation is possibly variable. Influence of elevation in influencing breadfruit infestation is unclear. Overall, observations from this study are preliminary but hope to help further ongoing efforts between addressing biological and ecological knowledge gaps surrounding QLB and devising invasive species management plans.
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Environmental science, Conservation biology, Entomology, Acalolepta aesthetica, Distribution, Environmental Correlation, Hawai’i, Host Preference
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64 pages
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