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Reducing the impact of recently introduced pest

A new research project is seeking to understand the biology and ecology of a recently introduced pest known as giant pine scale on Pinus radiata, to quantify the impact on native ecosystems and timber production in Australia. The research will provide insights to inform future management strategies. 

PhD candidate Duncan Jaroslow, Graduate Researcher, Ecology, Environment and Evolution at La Trobe University, is undertaking this research into the sap-sucking insect, which is native to pine forests in the Eastern-Mediterranean, where it feeds primarily on native pine species.

Recently, giant pine scale has been detected in both Melbourne and Adelaide, where it has been feeding on the novel host Pinus radiata – an economically significant tree for Australian timber production.

Giant pine scale usually reproduces parthenogenetically and secretes a thick cotton-like wax. Both traits have rendered conventional eradication strategies ineffective.

The biology and ecology of the insect in Australia is poorly understood, which limits the capacity to predict its pest potential or likelihood of management using biological control. This project is aiming to gather relevant data to inform future management efforts.

Throughout the project, researchers are using a variety of analysis methods including the regular collection of giant pine scale from the field, assessing the health, growth and defence of pine trees infested with the pest, as well as measuring factors associated with infestation success.

Jaroslow said this analysis will provide important insights into the giant pine scale’s life in Australia, specifically:

·         what damage it is likely to cause;

·         when and where this damage is likely to occur;

·         and to what extent local species might support its invasion.

“Giant pine scale attacks many softwood conifers, including Pinus radiata, which is critical to Victoria’s plantation industry,” said Jaroslow.

“Investigating this insect’s unusual traits and poorly understood biology is essential for avoiding the loss of important amenity and plantation pine trees.”

The research is expected to benefit the forest industry by identifying the best times to deploy control efforts including stem-injections and by determining which locations in Australia giant pine scale is likely to infest. The consequences of infestation will also be quantified through this project, allowing for more accurate estimations of the threat posed.

“As part of this project, we will soon commence an exciting experiment to investigate how giant pine scale affects the host’s vascular system,” explained Jaroslow.

“This will provide insights into the relationship between the giant pine scale and its host, learnings which will be valuable not just for giant pine scale management efforts, but also for the management of other sap-sucking pests.”

On the project, Jaroslow is working with supervisors Associate Professor Martin Steinbauer and Associate Professor Paul Cunningham of Agriculture Victoria, and Dr Angus Carnegie of the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

The project is funded by twelve companies and the Australian government, through the FWPA voluntary matching program.




Posted Date: October 4, 2019

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