Date of Award:

8-2018

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Biology

Advisor/Chair:

Ricardo A. Ramirez

Abstract

Billbugs are a serious pest of turfgrass in the Intermountain West. Billbug larvae severely discolor and eventually kill turfgrass by feeding in stems, on roots, and on crowns of the plant. Billbugs are typically managed with preventive, calendar-based applications of insecticides. Most of our knowledge on the biology and management of billbugs comes from research in the eastern U.S, and little is known about billbug biology and best management practices in the Intermountain West. First, I examined the seasonal activity of billbug life stages in Intermountain West turfgrass and developed a predictive degree-day model to better time management strategies against billbugs. I found that compared to the eastern U.S., a regional model that starts earlier (January 13) and has a cooler insect development threshold (3oC) was adequately robust to predict billbugs in Utah and Idaho. Next, I used the Utah-Idaho degree-day model to determine whether preventive and curative timings for billbug management developed in the eastern U.S. were effective in the Intermountain West. Testing four insecticides with the Utah-Idaho model and with eastern U.S. management timings I found that there was support to consider adoption of these same recommendations in Utah and Idaho, particularly for current preventive insecticides such as neonicotinoids and anthranilic diamides. Finally, considering that turf insecticides can negatively impact predatory insects, thought to viisuppress turf pests, I assessed the predatory arthropod community in Intermountain West turf and their impacts on billbugs. I found that the predatory arthropod community consisted primarily of ground beetles and spiders, representing 60% and 28% of all predators, respectively. I found that predators contributed the most by consuming billbug eggs and by changing the behavior of billbug adults with an observed reduction in mating activity. My research not only lays the ground work for development of effective, sustainable integrated management of billbugs in Intermountain West turfgrass, including conservation biocontrol,but also illustrates the necessity of regional predictive models, monitoring, and appropriate timing of management for successful turf pest suppression.

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