Radio tracking helps develop control of vine weevils

Dr Tom Pope tracking vine weevils - image: Harper Adams University
Dr Tom Pope tracking vine weevils - image: Harper Adams University

Researchers at Harper Adams University are using tracking devices to monitor the movements of 40 vine weevils (Otiorhynchus sulcatus) in a strawberry crop, in order to develop non-chemical controls against the insects.

The vine weevil feeds on the roots and leaves of soft fruit as well as potted ornamentals, causing damage and yield loss.

The aim of the current Defra-funded research programme is to encourage them to seek shelter in refuges filled with a naturally-occurring pathogen.

Harper Adams is contributing to the project by monitoring how far each weevil moves around the crop, to investigate its capacity to spread the pathogen's spores to other vine weevils - ideally creating an epidemic within the pest population.

Research entomologist Dr Tom Pope, who is leading the work at the Shropshire university, said: "Adult vine weevils are nocturnal and hide during the day, making them very hard to find again after releasing them into the crop. Using this electronic equipment we can scan the plants to find the weevils much more quickly and by checking the plants regularly, record the distance moved by each weevil."

He added: "We are delighted that our work to understand how weevils move within a crop is assisting in the development of a non-chemical control method for this pest."

So far, the work has shown that the majority of the weevils have remained within the strawberry patch, but moved widely within it.

The project is led by ADAS with contributions from Harper Adams University and the University of Warwick, and will run until 2015.


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