Comparison of two populations of Pseudophilothrips ichini (Thysanoptera: Phlaeothripidae) as candidates for biological control of the invasive weed Schinus terebinthifolia (Sapindales: Anacardiaceae).
Brazilian peppertree, Schinus terebinthifolia Raddi (Sapindales: Anacardiaceae) (hereafter Schinus), is one of the worst invasive species in Florida and Hawaii. The thrips Pseudophilothrips ichini Hood (Thysanoptera: Phlaeothripidae) is being considered as a potential biological control agent of Schinus. Two populations of this thrips were collected in the weed's native range; one from central-east Brazil (Ouro Preto thrips) and a second from north-east Brazil (Salvador thrips). Temperature requirements, adult fecundity and impact on different plant haplotypes by P. ichini were examined in the laboratory. Complete development of thrips from both populations occurred at temperatures ranging from 20 to 30°C. Two approaches were used to model the predicted distributions of the thrips populations in the USA: the physiological model (NAPPFAST) based on cold tolerance and the ecological niche model based on climatic variables (MaxEnt). The physiological model predicted that both populations of P. ichini may establish in similar areas of the USA, overlapping with the distribution of Schinus. However, the niche model predicted that only the Ouro Preto thrips could establish in the USA. The difference in model predictions suggests an apparent preadaptation of the Salvador thrips to lower temperatures than those experienced at the locations they were collected in Brazil. The Ouro Preto thrips had similar fecundity on two Florida Schinus haplotypes, whereas lower fecundity on haplotype A was found for the Salvador thrips. Based on these results, the Ouro Preto population may be better adapted to the climatic conditions and plant haplotypes found in Florida. Moreover, greenhouse studies indicated that Schinus growth was greatly reduced by thrips feeding, which may result in lower weed reproduction and densities in the field.