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Field trip to Kenya (January 13-24, 2018)
by F. Di Cristina

Second trip for the project about biological control of Guinea grass (Megathyrsus maximus). Meeting with P.-A. Catayud and R. Sforza at the ICIPE (International Centre of Insects Physiology and Ecology) in Nairobi City. Visited the laboratories and met the technicians B. Musyoka (specialized in grass stem boring moths) and J. Obonyo (parasitoid rearing); also met R. Copeland, responsible of the insect collection of ICIPE. They gave vials with artificial diet to rear the larvae of stem boring moths. Reached the Mpala Research Centre and Wildlife Foundation; the area is very dry and most of the target weeds were almost without green leaves. Close to the staff village recorded a good presence of giant Guinea grass and  collected several stems showing some stress (dry in upper part). Next site was the campground along the river site, where we recorded the presence of small biotype of Guinea grass; also collected a small sample of stems of another quite similar plant, with larger seeds (prob. a different species of the same genus Panicum sp.). Other few stems of Guinea grass were collected in the dry part of the Park site, where the Guinea grass population was very rear (prob. strong competition with other grass species). Once dissected the plants, we recorded an important attack of stem boring larvae on the stems with symptoms of the Giant form of Guinea grass, plus single specimens of 2 species of beetle larvae; recorded also some pathogens. Collected as well some buffelgrass (Cenchrus ciliaris) plants: found inside some Scolytid beetles and Lepidoptera larvae, scale insects on the root system, and a big infestation of eriophyid mites on the green leaves. Back in Nairobi on Jan. 21, we drove East (towns of Machakos and Salama): collected populations of both Guinea grass and buffelgrass; found an important attack of a Noctuid moth species (Manga sp.), plus 2 specimens of other Noctuid moth species (one Sesamia sp. and one Buakea kaeuae) on Guinea grass; also recorded a fly larva (2 specimens, probably secondary damage). Also collected about 20 eriophyid mites on Guinea grass and 12 on buffelgrass.

Field trip to Kazakhstan (April 04-12, 2018)
by S. Stutz


The goal was to collect plants concerning BC projects on Lepidium latifolium (PPW, perennial pepperweed), Tamarixspp., Eleagnus angustifolia (Russian olive) and Bromus tectorum (cheatgrass). Met cooperator R. Jashenko and discussed about several projects together. Traveled from Almaty in direction North along the Ili River, towards Kapchagay, Bakanas, the Balqaš district and back to Almaty. Adverse climatic conditions (rain, cold and snow). Collected PPW (recorded a Diptera larva, and in one site plants heavily attacked by Ceutorhynchus marginellus), Russian olive (collected leaf buds samples for DNA, and a small leaf feeding caterpillar), Tamarix (some scattered plants heavily attacked by the stem gall midge Psectrosema noxius), Verbascum sp., Bromus (found some caterpillars in a silken cocoon feeding on the plant leaves), small Acroptilon repens plants (collected some dry flowerheads showing mites attack symptoms).

Field trip to Turkey (May 17-20, 2018)
by F. Di Cristina


The trip started from Kayseri in direction Cappadocia. Collection sites along the roads from Kayseri to Avanos, from Goreme to Camusin, from Urgup to Incesu. We collected samples of Eleagnus angustifolia (Russian olive), Taeniatherum caput-medusae (TACA) and Lepidium latifolium (PPW) for mites. Found 3 diptera and 3 larvae of fly in the stem of PPW and 3 weevil species on Verbascum spp. 

Field trip to South Africa (June 16-23, 2018)
by R. Bonopera


Goal of the trip was to check the Durban area for the Guinea grass project, supported by our local colleague Guy Sutton. We found and collected good populations of Guinea grass (Megathyrsus maximus): recorded and collected several flower galls. Dissecting them under the microscope, the feeling is that the flower galls are made by a gall midge (already emerged), and they are full of a gray/brown dust (maybe a fungus?). Collected several of them to detect the presence of the fungus by DNA analysis; also collected leaf samples for weed population DNA characterization. Recorded an interesting damage on Acacia nilotica (eriophyid mite?).

Field trip to Bulgaria (June 20-21, 2018)
by F. Marini and G. Roselli


Purpose of this trip was to collect plants infested by Aceria drabae (Lepidium draba project). We traveled from Sofia in direction of Plovdik looking for spots of L. draba infested by A. drabae (according to prior records of M. Cristofaro and F. Di Cristina). Only in Samokov we found a good population of infested L. draba in a small traffic island; most of the plants were showing strong symptoms of mite attack and healthy still blooming plants were almost completely absent. The collected material was packed in small bouquets and stored in a little refrigerator. 

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