Project Overview

The “Megastigmus and Conifers: The Biology of Invasion” project is a collaboration of researchers in France and Canada funded by the Strategic Project Grants Program of NSERC and the Agence Nationale de Recherche – Programme Blanc International.  The goal is to determine if Megastigmus, a genus of chalcid wasp of which some species parasitize the seeds of conifers, is actively parasitizing Cupressaceae species in North America, as it is in other parts of the world.  In such areas, this invasive genus of wasp is detrimental to forest stand regeneration and seed orchard operation by drastically decreasing Cupressaceae fecundity.  To date, there has only been one recorded incident of Megastigmus parasitizing North American Cupressaceae, Chamaecyparis thyoides, in North Carolina.  The insects isolated were named a new species, Megastigmus thyoides.  Since there is currently no way of determining whether a seed or cone is infested with these larvae without X-raying the seeds or carefully dissecting them, it is highly possible that Megastigmus has invaded North America, but has remained unnoticed due to its cryptic life cycle.  It is also possible that any Megastigmus introduced from imported seeds have not established here for lack of a suitable host.  This project is designed to be one step ahead of the possible invasion of this insect into North America, to gather information at large on the phenology of Megastigmus parasitism, and to, ultimately, prevent further worldwide distribution.

We are currently in the process of gathering cone samples from as many Cupressaceae species in North America as possible.  If you have any pertinent information, can contribute seed or cone samples, or have contact information for North American arboretums, seed orchards, or researchers working with Cupressaceae, please contact Dr. Jean-Noel Candau at Jean-Noel.Candau@nrcan.gc.ca or call at (705) 541-5759.

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