Pseudophilothrips ichini is a recently approved biological control agent for the highly invasive Brazilian peppertree in Florida, USA. Prior to approval for field release in 2019, thrips colonies used for host specificity testing were produced and maintained in small cylinders to fit in restricted quarantine spaces. This next segment in the classical biological control pipeline is mass production and distribution of P. ichini. To accomplish this, we developed novel techniques to expand from small colony maintenance to large-scale production. We first quantified the productivity of the small cylinders, each containing a 3.8 L potted plant and producing an average of 368 thrips per generation. Given the amount of maintenance the cylinders required, we investigated larger cages to see if greater numbers of thrips could be produced with less effort. Acrylic boxes (81.5 × 39.5 × 39.5 cm) each contained two 3.8 L plants and produced an average of 679 thrips per generation. The final advancement was large, thrips-proof Lumite® screen cages (1.8 × 1.8 × 1.8 m) that each held six plants in 11.4 L pots and produced 13,864 thrips in as little as 5 wk. Screen cages and cylinders had the greatest thrips fold production, but screen cages required ten times less labor per thrips compared to either cylinders or boxes. The efficiency of these large screen cages ensured sustained mass production and field release capacity in Schinus-infested landscapes. The screen cage method is adapted and used by collaborators, and this will expand the literature on beneficial thrips mass rearing methods.
Keywords: Schinus terebinthifolia; aggregation; passive trapping; phytophagous thrips.