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Trip to USA


Bryony Taylor

Project Code:



20thSept-28th Sept 2008


Amy Rhoda (USDA-APHIS), Jorge Pena (University Florida), Marjory Hoy (University Florida), Ron Ochoa (USDA-Systematic Entomology Lab), phone conference with Cal Welborn (University Florida)

Executive Summary:

Bryony Taylor spent 1 week visiting experts relating to the Red Palm Mite project CR10002 in Florida and Washington DC (Beltsville). The red palm mite Raoiella indica is a recent invasive species in the Caribbean and the USA (Florida) and is of concern as it attacks a wide range of palm hosts and also banana trees. CABI have been funded by the USDA-ARS to do foreign exploration in India to look for natural enemies of the pest in order to set up a classical biological control programme. The experts visited in the USA have been working on the problem in the Caribbean and Florida and BT visited them in order to gain valuable skills in field survey techniques, identification and mass culture of both mites and natural enemies. The trip was a success and the techniques learned will be used to create an effective protocol for the foreign exploration. Valuable contacts were established and relationships were strengthened between all involved in the field of research. Experts were also either identified or confirmed who will assist with the identification of the natural enemies found.

1.Purpose & Objectives:

  1. Learn to identify breeding population of red palm mite in the field on various host plants.

  2. Look at differences in populations of RPM between different host plant available for survey

  3. Learn more about natural enemies associated with RPM in Caribbean and Florida

  4. Learn about current distribution of pest and its updated host list

  5. Learn various culturing techniques for both natural enemies and for the RPM itself

  6. Identify potential experts to aid with identification of natural enemies

  7. Learn to identify the distinguishing feature of RPM down the microscope and how to prepare specimens for such examination.

  8. Learn to identify relatives of the RPM in the field which are often mistaken for RPM and also how to identify its common natural enemies.


In 2004 the red palm mite Raoiella indica was detected on the Caribbean island of Martinique. The mite has since spread throughout the Caribbean and has now been detected in South Florida. The mite has the capability to grow large colonies on the underside of leaves and feeds solely through the stomata of its host plant. The host then displays symptoms of yellowing on the leaves and a drop in coconut production of up to 80% has been reported in the Caribbean. The mite seems to be a generalist on palms specialising in trees mainly from the Arecaceae family but has also been reported to reproduce on members of the Zingiberales (which includes the families Musaceae, Heliconiacae, Zingiberaceae and Strelitziaceae). Reports from the Caribbean suggest that its impact on coconut palms is of most concern, however there are reports that it may also feed on palms native to USA which would be a cause for concern for their nursery industry.

BT visited Amy Rhoda who has been working on field surveillance of the mite in the Caribbean. BT and AR spent a day in the field identifying RPM and looking at signs and symptoms of infestations. AR has been working on this since the problem first started and has much experience in field sampling of the mites. BT and AR also visited Jorge Pena, who is employed by the University of Florida, in Homestead and has been working on the natural enemy complex associated with the mite in the Caribbean. AR’s group based at the USDA in Florida are also carrying out work on invasive weeds in the USA and have released agents against tropical soda apple.
The second visit was to the University of Florida, Gainesville to see Marjory Hoy. MH has been working in biological control for many years and shared her expertise of rearing predatory mites and gave insight to her research on molecular differentiation of cryptic species of Amblyseius largoensis, a mite she has found in association with R. indica in Mauritius. Marjory has also been attempting to set up cultures of R. indica on banana leaves, although she was having trouble gaining colonies in any significant numbers.
The final visit of the trip was to the USDA-ARS in Beltsville, Washington, where BT met Ron Ochoa, Jenny Beard, Lyndel Meinhardt and Alma Solis. RO and JB are experts in mite systematics. RO is one of the leading researchers on R. indica and he shared his knowledge of the problem and also taught BT valuable laboratory techniques to be used for mite identification. Techniques included identification of major predatory mites, R. indica (microscopically) and an overview of other important mites.
BT also conducted a teleconference with Cal Welborn of the University of Florida, who is also a leading researcher in the RPM field. CW has an interest in hosts of US origin and also of the predatory fauna associated with RPM in the USA and Caribbean.


In summary important international contacts have been made with leading researchers in the RPM field and all the experts are interested in the progress of our foreign explorations. CW, MH and RO are all interested in receiving material from the old world and have offered to aid with ID’s to confirm material found on surveys. The trip has enabled BT to carry out surveys for RPM in the old world using current techniques and valuable identification knowledge.

4.Conclusions & Implications for CABI:

5.Publicity & Marketing Opportunities:

6.Contact Details

7.Distribution List:

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