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Falklands: RESEARCH INTO BIOLOGICAL EARWIG CONTROL

RESEARCH INTO BIOLOGICAL EARWIG CONTROL IN THE FALKLANDS APPROVED BY ENVIRONMENTAL COMMITTEE

By J. Brock (FINN)

At a public meeting held on 15 April 2013 Dr the Hon Barry Elsby, MLA said that FIG was looking into a biological method of controlling European Earwigs. On Wednesday morning the Environmental Committee approved funding into the research.

The committee discussed a paper by Dr Maczey of the Centre for Agricultural Bioscience International (CABI) to outline a revised plan to support the biological control of earwigs, noting the first year Phase 1 testing costs.

Dr Maczeys paper stated that the Environmental Committee should recommend that Executive Council approve the provision of Environment Planning Department funds from the current financial year towards the host range testing of biological control agents for the potential control of earwigs in Stanley and approves the principle of further funds being made available next financial year from the Environmental Studies Budget to complete the Phase 1 work.

Including a Summary of Financial Implications 2012/13: 2013/14, the paper earmarks £15,346 (from existing dept budgets) £10,000 (provisionally from ESB).

The funding is necessary because European Earwigs have increased in numbers (based largely on anecdotal evidence and surveys) since their accidental introduction to Stanley in the early 2000s. Earwigs have a nuisance impact as well as decimating many garden vegetable crops.

Dr Norbert Maczey of CABI visited the Falkland Islands last year to produce a feasibility study on the potential use of biological control agents. He has prepared a revised concept note for the biological control of earwigs. Dr Maczey describes Stanley earwig numbers as being an epidemic compared to their natural habitat in Europe and Asia.

CABI regard the European earwig as a promising target species for biological control in the Falkland Islands. Off the shelf solutions using parasitoid tachinid flies are readily available and have been outlined on a number of occasions to Environmental Committee. As there are no other native Dermaptera invertebrate species present in the Falkland Islands, the risk of non-target effects is considered very low. To narrow down the host range specificity of both control species, closely related Dermaptera and in addition further species belonging to other taxonomic orders need to be tested.

While CABI stress there is currently no evidence that any side effects are likely to materialise, they propose to test for non-target impacts through the phase one study as detailed in the concept note attached at appendix 1 of this paper.

CABI plan to obtain specimens of both species of tachinid parasitoids from areas with a climate similar to that of the Falklands (Scotland/northern England) and bring these into cultivation at CABIs facilities in Europe. Host range testing should be very limited and will comprise of 2-3 earwig species and single test species from other orders closer related to Dermaptera.

Added to this, CABI can conduct the necessary research on earwigs and the two associated parasitoid fly species including cultivation, and host range testing by delivering the following work packages such as Carrying out collection of the tachnid parasitoids Triarthria setipennis and Ocytata pallipes from sites in Northwest Europe climate-matched to the Falkland Islands Transport cultures to specialist facility for further assessment and cultivation in Egham, Surrey or alternatively establish cultivation at Delemont, Switzerland. The next work package is to conduct proposed host specificity studies on key non-target species using high-level containment infrastructure in Egham or Delemont. Then application to the appropriate bodies for the eventual release of Triarthria setipennis and/or Ocytata pallipes if appropriate.

If cultivation and testing is successful and approved by FIG, the second phase of the study would involve the release of agents at suitable locations in Stanley and possibly MPA during two consecutive summers, the production of an in-depth project report on Triarthria setipennis and/or Ocytata pallipes as a natural control agent for the European Earwig Forficula auricularia.

Reported levels of earwig infestation in Stanley have been high in the past few months and it is clear that this problem is a continuing concern to many households and businesses such as Stanley Growers. CABI has indicated that it is willing and able to devote the necessary resources to undertake the Phase 1 work with immediate effect, but is unlikely to hold this offer open indefinitely.

Total funds required for Phase 1 laboratory cultivation and testing research are £25,346. This work would be undertaken from May to October 2013 in Europe. If successful, consideration would be given to the release of control agents as early as November of this year. This would be subject to further consultation and approvals.

Through a combination of savings in salaries and payments to Gypsy Cove Wardens the Department is projected to underspend its budget this financial year. Subject to Treasury and Members agreement to vire finds it will be possible to part fund Phase 1 this year, with the remaining funding coming from next years Environmental Studies Budget and if agreement is not forthcoming it is uncertain when Phase 1 might commence as it is unlikely that next years ESB could bear the full cost without impacting on other important projects.

It was clear from the biological control feasibility study conducted by CABI that the biological control of European earwigs has an excellent chance of success in the Falkland Islands. It is also clear that the public are likely to support any initiative to reduce the impact of earwigs if it is deemed safe with no potential side effects.

The phase one testing phase is both a feasibility test and confidence building exercise to prove that the fly species considered for the control of earwigs will work effectively in the Falkland Island climate and conditions, and will not have any impact on native or commercial insect of plant species present in the Falkland Islands.

CABI is available to commence Phase 1 now and, subject to Treasury and Members approval, funding is also available.

Financial Implications are that in 2012/13: 2013/14: £15,346 (from existing dept budgets) £10,000 (provisionally from ESB) would be needed.



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