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Field trip to Kenya (January 13-24, 2018)
by M. Cristofaro and F. Di Cristina

Second trip for the project about biological control of Guinea grass (Megathyrsus maximus). Meeting with P.-A. Catayud and R. Sforza at the ICIPE (International Centre of Insects Physiology and Ecology) in Nairobi City. Visited the laboratories and met the technicians B. Musyoka (specialized in grass stem boring moths) and J. Obonyo (parasitoid rearing); also met R. Copeland, responsible of the insect collection of ICIPE. They gave us vials with artificial diet to rear the larvae of stem boring moths. On Jan. 16 we reached the Mpala Research Centre and Wildlife Foundation; compared to our previous visit in September the area is very dry and most of our target weeds were almost without green leaves. Close to the staff village we recorded a good presence of giant Guinea grass and we collected several stems showing some stress (dry in upper part). Next site was the campground along the river site, where we recorded the presence of small biotype of Guinea grass; also collected a small sample of stems of another quite similar plant, with larger seeds (prob. a different species of the same genus Panicum sp.). Other few stems of Guinea grass were collected in the dry part of the Park site, where the Guinea grass population was very rear (prob. strong competition with other grass species). Once dissected the plants, we recorded an important attack of stem boring larvae on the stems with symptoms of the giant form of Guinea grass, plus single specimens of 2 species of beetle larvae; recorded also some pathogens. Collected as well some buffelgrass (Cenchrus ciliaris) plants: we found inside some Scolytid beetles and Lepidoptera larvae, scale insects on the root system, and a big infestation of eriophyid mites on the green leaves. Back in Nairobi, we drove East (towns of Machakos and Salama): collected populations of both Guinea grass and buffelgrass; found an important attack of a Noctuid moth species (Manga sp.), plus 2 specimens of other Noctuid moth species (one Sesamia sp. and one Buakea kaeuae) on Guinea grass; also recorded a fly larva (2 specimens, probably secondary damage). Also collected about 20 eriophyid mites on Guinea grass and 12 on buffelgrass.


Field trip to Kazakhstan (April 04-12, 2018)
by M.Cristofaro and S. Stutz

Our goal was to collect plants concerning biocontrol projects on Lepidium latifolium (PPW, perennial pepperweed), Tamarix spp., Eleagnus angustifolia (Russian olive) and Bromus tectorum (cheatgrass). Met our cooperator R. Jashenko and discussed about several projects together. Traveled from Almaty in direction North along the Ili River, towards Kapchagay, Bakanas, the Balqaš district and back to Almaty. Adverse climatic conditions (rain, cold and snow). Collected Lepidium latifolium (recorded a Diptera larva, and in one site plants heavily attacked by Ceutorhynchus marginellus), Elaeagnus angustifolia (collected leaf buds samples for DNA, and a small leaf feeding caterpillar), Tamarix sp. (some scattered plants heavily attacked by the stem gall midge Psectrosema noxius), Verbascum, Bromus tectorum (found some caterpillars in a silken cocoon feeding on the plant leaves), small Acroptilon repens plants (collected some dry flowerheads showing mites attack symptoms).


Field trip to Kazakhstan (May 10-20, 2018)
by F. Marini, R. Jashenco, M. Volkovitsh and P. Weyl

Goals of this trip was to collect plants of Botumus umbellatus (flowering rush), look for Lasiosina on Lepidium latifolium (perennial pepperweed), collect eriophyid mites on Acroptilon repens (Russian knapweed), collect adults of Sphenoptera foveola on Chondrilla juncea (Russian skeletonweed), collect samples of Elaeagnus angustifolia (Russian olive) for genetic analysis, look for potential biocontrol agents on Tamarix ramosissima.


Field trip to Turkey (May 17-20, 2018)
by M. Cristofaro and F. Di Cristina

In Turkey, the trip started from Kayseri in direction Cappadocia. Collection sites along the roads from Kayseri to Avanos, from Goreme to Camusin, from Urgup to Incesu. We collected samples of Eleagnus angustifolia (Russian olive), Taeniatherum caput-medusae (TACA) and Lepidium latifolium (PPW) for mites. Found 3 diptera and 3 larvae of fly in the stem of PPW and 3 weevil species on Verbascum spp.


Field trip to South Africa (June 16-23, 2018)
by M. Cristofaro and R. Bonopera

Goal of the trip was to check the Durban area for the Guinea grass project, supported by our local colleague G. Sutton. We found and collected good populations of Guinea grass (Megathyrsus maximus): recorded and collected several flower galls. Dissecting them under the microscope, the feeling is that the flower galls are made by a gall midge (already emerged), and they are full of a gray/brown dust (maybe a fungus?). Collected several of them to detect the presence of the fungus by DNA analysis; also collected leaf samples for weed population DNA characterization. Recorded an interesting damage on Acacia nilotica (eriophyid mite?).


Field trip to Bulgaria (June 20-21, 2018)
by F. Marini and G. Roselli

Purpose of this trip was to collect plants infested by Aceria drabae (Lepidium draba project). We traveled from Sofia in direction of Plovdik looking for spots of L. draba infested by A. drabae (according to prior records of M. Cristofaro and F. Di Cristina). Only in Samokov we found a good population of infested L. draba in a small traffic island; most of the plants were showing strong symptoms of mite attack and healthy still blooming plants were almost completely absent. The collected material was packed in small bouquets and stored in a little refrigerator.


Trip to Sicily (July 12-14, 2018)
by M. Cristofaro and B. Rector

Trip around the Mt. Etna region. Found a large infestation of cheatgrass (collected for genetic analysis). Collected Taeniatherum caput-medusae seeds (subspecies asperum) and recorded a good population of cheatgrass. Also collected samples of Isatis sp. seeds for genetic analysis.

Field trip to Uzbekistan (June 26 - July 1, 2018)
by F. Marini and P. Weyl

Exploration of the Tashkent, Akhangaran and Samarkand regions looking for project weeds. Meeting with Dr. B. Xolmatov, Director of the Institute of Zoology, Academy Sciences of Uzbekistan. Found plants of Acroptilon repens (Russian knapweed) with tracks of weevil larvae in the stem (collected same larvae and also their potential parasitoid, adults and pupae), other plants with pathogens and observed symptoms of Aceria acroptiloni. Collected seeds of Lepidium latifolium. Collected samples of Taeniatherum caput-medusae for genetic analysis. On Eleagnus angustifolia (Russian olive), observed potential symptoms of Anarsia eleagnella, symptoms of mite (Aceria eleagnicola) attack and collected samples of young leaves for genetic analysis; also observed dark and dry fruits due to Aphid attack. Observed symptoms of mite attack on Alhagi maurorum (Camelthorn). On Tamarix sp. collected an adult of Coniatus sp., found and collected galls on leaves/young branches and observed symptoms of eriophyid mites attack. Collected seeds of Centaurea solstitialis (Yellow starthistle) and collected few adults of Tingis grisea on it.


Field trip to Kenya (October 31 - November 07, 2018)
by M. Cristofaro and F. Marini

Rendezvous in Nairobi with P.-A. Calatayud and his technician Boaz. Drove towards Nanyuki, to the Mpala Research Centre. Made a first survey on Guinea grass near our house: recorded 2 stem boring and one root boring insect species: 4 larvae of a Diptera, the classic Buakea sp. and a root boring larva. Near the village recorded again a good presence of Guinea grass (big plants but small
biotype). Differently from last trip (January) the damage was recorded in the lowest part of the stem (not more than 2 cm above the root crown). We were able to collect few Buakea. Collected at the site near the screen-house few big white larvae in the root.In another site near the Camp Administration Boaz collected 50 larvae of Buakea (all few cm above the crown). Next site was at the campground along the river site: recorded the presence of small biotype of Guinea grass. Collected some Buakea larvae. After lunch we continue to collect in 2 sites: near the Smithsonian house and near Boaz house, for two main targets: eriophyoid mites and Buakea, respectively. Found about 20 mites and got about 100 Buakea larvae. Collected at the end 144 Buakea sp. larvae, more than 150 eriophyid mites on about 40 leaves and rughly 10 root boring larvae (moth? beetle?). Back in Nairobi City at the ICIPE (International Centre of Insects Physiology and Ecology), organizing the collected material in the lab and the shipment for J. Goolsby.


Field trip to South Africa (November 08 - 13, 2018)
by M. Cristofaro and F. Marini

Meeting in Durban with cooperator G. Sutton. Drove North for about 300 km to Hluhluwe, where we found a large population of Guinea grass: recorded and collected several stem boring scolytid beetles (only adults, extremely small). We also found some rust (collected). In the area a large infestation of Parthenium sp., an alien weed of American origin very dangerous for dermatitis and for allergies. Moreover, we found some eriophyid mites (collected about 50 of them). We also visited 2 sites near the entrance of the National park (but they have been heavily damaged by a recent fire). In a different area, where we had never collected Guinea grass, we collected young seeds (for eventual seed feeder insects), leaf samples for weed population DNA characterization). In an other site we found some damage on the stem but without any exit holes; once dissect the stems, we collected 3 scolytids (adults) and 8 wasps (pre-adult stages, 3 black and 5 pale yellow): according to G. Sutton, the black wasps are the same of the pale yellow ones, but more mature (almost adults). So we collected more stems infested with the wasp: the idea was to get the adult emergence in order to combine morphological and genetic identification. Next stop near the town of Mkuze. Found a large population of Guinea grass, in combination with other Panicum spp. (at least two, one of them maybe hybrid among Guineagrass and the other). Collected some leaves of Guinea grass with a black rust and leaf sample for DNA. In an other site we found a large population of Guinea grass and Acacia nilotica: found some eriophyid mite on Guinea grass (too windy to perform a good collection) and a stem boring fly (larva). Recorded an important presence of a leaf damage (black spots) and a defoliator lady beetle.  At the end collected about 40 adults and leaves for a bouquet. We also found Abutilon sp. (maybe theophrasti) with an important black rust and a feeding damage by a leaf beetle. Back in Johannesburg, where we met D. Marlin. Visit at the Witwatersrand University and at their facilities (nice quarantine); meeting with M. Byrne, discussing projects and cooperations.


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