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New Zealand Plant Protection 68 (2015): 446

What habitat does spiny snout mite occupy in Tasmania?

D.J. Wilson and P.J. Gerard

ABSTRACT

Spiny snout mite (Neomolgus capillatus) is a potential biocontrol agent for clover flea (Sminthurus viridis), a white clover pest on dairy farms in warmer and wetter parts of New Zealand. In the 1990s, this mite was introduced from Brittany, France, into Tasmania for clover flea control. Results during the release programme were highly promising and subsequent anecdotal farmer reports indicate widespread decreases in damage. As N. capillatus is a predatory mite and already known to attack nontarget organisms, habitat specificity will determine whether it could be introduced into New Zealand without risk to native insects. To assess this, pastures on nine of the original Tasmanian release farms and adjacent non-target habitats, ranging from bush, wetlands, eucalypt stands to sand dune country, were sampled in April 2014. Litter samples were collected, heat extracted and mite species identified. Neomolgus capillatus was found at effective densities in pastures that had good clover cover. Where present, it displaced Bdellodes spp., mites that are ineffective against clover flea. No N. capillatus were found in the non-target habitats, all of which lacked clover and contained other predatory mites, including Bdellodes spp. Therefore the preference by N. capillatus for lush pastures makes it an excellent prospect for introduction as a biocontrol agent into clover flea prone regions of New Zealand.

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