Orchid pollinating fruit flies
My research on Dacini fruit flies began in 2017, when I started working at the University of Hawaii as a Junior Researcher. There is a long legacy of Dacini systematic research at the University of Hawaii, with early work in the mid to late 20th century by the late Dr. Elmo Hardy, and more recently by Dr Luc Leblanc (currently @ U Idaho). My position and research is funded through Plant Protection Act agreements with the United States Department of Agriculture.
Fruit flies in the subfamily Dacinae (Diptera: Tephritidae) are a diverse group which includes both important agricultural pests and a significant number of non-pest species. Species belong to three main genera, Bactrocera (461 species), Zeugodacus (196 species) and Dacus (273 species) and are all native to Old World tropics. All representatives are difficult to identify through morphology due to being wasp mimics, which creates morphological overlap between distant species. By understanding the morphology, biodiversity and evolutionary history of this subfamily across their range we can clear-up taxonomy, discover new species and possibly predict the likelihood of pest potential for each species.
Goals and Objectives
The primary purpose of this research is to further the development of accurate identification tools for tephritid fruit fly species and populations through systematic and population genetic study, which has been a challenge for Plant Protection Organizations (PPOs) worldwide. Through collections and subsequent molecular work, we will confirm the taxonomic status and genetic variability within species, between pest species, and between close relatives. If this is not done, cryptic pest species may remain unrecognized and non-pest species may be subject to unnecessary quarantine procedures.