UC Riverside

Mark Hoddle

Mark Hoddle

Protecting Our Plants from Unwanted Visitors

UCR entomologist and researcher Mark Hoddle has an important job-protecting us from illegal immigrants of the insect variety. These non-native pests, ranging from the exotic cottony cushion, black, red and San Jose scales, to less spectacular mealybugs, whiteflies and aphids, come into this country riding on fruits and vegetables. Imported pests can cause significant economic and environmental damage. In California, these creatures have ravaged farm crops, while others such as the Africanized honey bee now threaten the state's urban areas.

Dr. Hoddle is UCR's Extension Specialist in biological control, a key role for a land-grant university. His research addresses biological control, which introduces natural enemies from the home range of destructive pests to suppress noxious invasive populations to levels which are no longer damaging to the environment or causing economic losses.

For me, living the promise at UCR means the freedom to identify important research issues on biological control and invasive species problems that confront California and being allowed to pursue those to the very best of my abilities in an environment that allows and encourages innovative thinking and collaborative team building at the state, national, and international level. It is remarkable the amount of latitude and encouragement that UCR provides to meet these ends.

One of the latest exotic pests to invade the California ecosystem is the red palm weevil. Native to Asia, it was found in Orange County in October 2010 and threatens the state’s landscape palms as well as the date industry in the Coachella Valley. Hoddle is also researching biological controls for avocado thrips and the Asian citrus psyllid.

Hoddle hopes to have successes similar to what has been accomplished against the glassy-winged sharpshooter, a major agricultural pest that was virtually eradicated on several South Pacific Ocean islands. The research team introduced a microscopic parasitic wasp into an ecosystem suffering from the sharpshooter. The wasp renews its population by laying eggs inside the sharpshooter eggs, preventing the sharpshooters from hatching. The method is cost effective and brought permanent control of the sharpshooter to Tahiti and neighboring islands.

As director of the Center for Invasive Species Research, Hoddle and his colleagues are taking forward-looking approaches to managing pest and disease invasions. The long-term goal of the Center is to develop a systematic method for dealing with exotic pests in risk assessment, early detection, and rapid development of control or eradication measures. Ultimately, they expect to research and adopt methods of transgenic biological manipulations to additionally suppress pest populations.

Visit Professor Mark Hoddle’s profile page on the Living the Promise website.

Read the Center for Invasive Species Research blog.

Visit the Hoddle Laboratory website.

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