In this study, we addressed the question of whether or not native stands of blueberry (Vaccinium spp.) and/or huckleberry (Gaylussacia spp.) support populations of blueberry maggot, Rhagoletis mendax Curran, in the Great Lakes region. Infestation of commercial blueberries by the blueberry maggot, R. mendax, is a serious problem in many areas where blueberries are grown. In the past 10–20 yr, commercial highbush blueberry, Vaccinium corymbosum L., production has expanded into places such as southern Ontario and southern Quebec where blueberry maggot had not previously been reported. In the mid-1990s, isolated infestations of commercial highbush blueberry were reported in southern Ontario. Because R. mendax was not considered endemic to that area, it was widely assumed that the pests had come into the fields via movement from exotic localities. Here we present an alternative hypothesis, that the blueberry maggots infesting newly established highbush plantations are derived from native blueberries growing in the vicinity. To test this hypothesis, in 1997–1999, we sampled potential native hosts for R. mendax (Vaccinium spp. and Gaylussacia spp.) from 31 localities in the Great Lakes region, primarily in Michigan and Ontario. R. mendax was reared from fruits of native hosts collected at four sites in Michigan and one site each in Ontario, Indiana, and Ohio. V. corymbosum was the predominant host infested, with infestation of this host observed at five of the seven sites. However, two huckleberry species [Gaylussacia baccata (Wangenheim) K. Koch, and Gaylussacia dumosa (Andersson) Torrey & Gray] had the highest rates of infestation that we observed (25.4 and 17.6%, respectively). These data represent the first published reports of R. mendax infesting native host plants in the Great Lakes region, and support the hypothesis that infestations observed in commercial fields may have originated from infested native host plants.
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