Tolerance of the eriophyid mite Aceria salsolae to UV-A light and implications for biological control of Russian thistle.
Aceria salsolae (Acari: Eriophyidae) is being evaluated as a candidate biological control agent of Russian thistle (Salsola tragus, Chenopodiaceae), a major invasive weed of rangelands and dryland crops in the western USA. Prior laboratory host range testing under artificial lighting indicated reproduction on non-native Bassia hyssopifolia and on a native plant, Suaeda calceoliformis. However, in field tests in the native range, mite populations released on these 'nontarget' plants remained low. We hypothesized that UV-A light, which can affect behavior of tetranychid mites, would affect populations of the eriophyid A. salsolae differently on the target and nontarget plant species, decreasing the mite's realized host range. Plants were infested with A. salsolae under lamps that emitted UV-A, along with broad-spectrum lighting, and the size of mite populations and plant growth was compared to infested plants exposed only to broad-spectrum light. Russian thistle supported 3- to 55-fold larger mite populations than nontarget plants regardless of UV-A treatment. UV-A exposure did not affect mite populations on Russian thistle or S. calceoliformis, whereas it increased populations 7-fold on B. hyssopifolia. Main stems on nontarget plants grew 2- to 6-fold faster than did Russian thistle under either light treatment. The two nontarget plants attained greater volume under the control light regime than UV-A, but Russian thistle was unaffected. Although Russian thistle was always the superior host, addition of UV-A light to the artificial lighting regime did not reduce the ability of A. salsolae to reproduce on the two nontarget species, suggesting that UV-B or other environmental factors may be more important in limiting mite populations in the field.