The introduction of biological control agents to new environments requires host specificity tests to estimate potential non-target impacts of a prospective agent. Currently, the approach is conservative, and is based on physiological host ranges determined under captive rearing conditions, without consideration for ecological factors that may influence realized host range. We use historical data and current field data from introduced parasitoids that attack an endemic Lepidoptera species in Hawaii to validate a probabilistic risk assessment (PRA) procedure for non-target impacts. We use data on known host range and habitat use in the place of origin of the parasitoids to determine whether contemporary levels of non-target parasitism could have been predicted using PRA. Our results show that reasonable predictions of potential non-target impacts may be made if comprehensive data are available from places of origin of biological control agents, but scant data produce poor predictions. Using apparent mortality data rather than marginal attack rate estimates in PRA resulted in over-estimates of predicted non-target impact. Incorporating ecological data into PRA models improved the predictive power of the risk assessments.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.