Date of Award


Document type


Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


First Advisor

Roy Van Driesche

Second Advisor

Joseph Elkinton

Third Advisor

Benjamin Normark

Subject Categories



The ambermarked birch leafminer (AMBLM) (Profenusa thomsoni) is an invasive leafminer native to the Palearctic from the United Kingdom to Turkey to Japan. It was introduced to the eastern United States in 1921 and has since spread to the mid-western U.S. states and Canadian provinces. This leafminer was introduced to Alaska in 1996, where it has since spread over 140,000 acres, from Haines to Fairbanks. The most severe damage is found throughout the Anchorage bowl, which extends south to Girdwood and North to Wasilla. The damage caused by P. thomsoni can be severe, defoliating entire trees. In 2006, it was noted that urban areas in Alaska experienced higher densities of AMBLM leafminer than adjacent forested areas. To examine the effects of habitat on leafminer densities, twenty permanent plots were established in Anchorage, Alaska in 2006 and were classified as urban and forest (ten each). Temperature records for the twenty permanent sites showed that average daily temperatures and average accumulated degree-days differed significantly between urban and forest sites. In 2007 and 2008, leafminer abundance in each habitat was examined weekly at six plots (three urban and three forest) within the city of Anchorage. Asynchronous emergence, flight, and oviposition times were observed between leafminers in forests versus urban areas, with peaks of these parameters in forests being about three weeks later than in urban areas. To control the spread and effects of P. thomsoni, a cooperative biological control project was launched in 2003 and the parasitoid wasp Lathrolestes thomsoni (Hymenoptera: Tenthredinidae) was selected for release. Parasitized leafminer larvae were collected from the provinces of Northwest Territories and Alberta, in Canada and transferred in soil tubs as pre-pupae to Alaska. From 2004-2008, 3636 adult L. thomsoni adults were released in birch tree stands in Anchorage, Soldotna, and Fairbanks, Alaska. Parasitoids have been recovered at all release sites in Alaska and have established populations at most release sites. Currently, AMBLM densities have declined by over 40% in the Anchorage area and the spread of the leafminer throughout the state appears to have slowed. Throughout the course of the biological control program two additional parasitoids were discovered attacking P. thomsoni in Alaska. The first, Lathrolestes soperi, an endoparasitoid with similar biology to the released parasitoid L. thomsoni, was found to attack early instar larvae within the leaf. The second species, Aptesis segnis, is an ecotoparasitoid that attacks pupae and prepupae in their earthen cells in soil. Lathrolestes soperi was found to contribute a significant proportion of mortality against the leafminer. The presence of A. segnis in the parasitoid guild raised mortality of P. thomsoni to 40.3%, showing that the percent parasitism by A. segnis was 26%, double that provided by L. soperi. This suggests that A. segnis is the dominant parasitoid in the guild. It is unknown what effect that the introduced wasp L. thomsoni will have on the presumably native L. soperi and if one species will outcompete the other over time, or both will coexist. Future work on this system is recommended in five to ten years to see if L. thomsoni and L. soperi populations remain stable or to see if one parasitoid outcompetes the other and if A. segnis maintains its dominant place in the system.


Included in

Entomology Commons