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Range Extension of a Nonindigenous Midge, Polypedilum nubifer
(Diptera: Chironomidae), in North America
Gregory S. Wallace1, William R. Mabee1,*, and Matthew D. Combes2
Abstract - We report range extension in North America by a nonindigenous midge, Polypedilum
nubifer (Skuse), based on larval specimens collected during September 2007 from reaches
of two streams in the Southeastern Lowlands physiographic region of Missouri. Endemic midge
composition and water quality characteristics from the reaches are also presented. Polypedilum
nubifer could become a rice crop pest and human nuisance across the Coastal Plains Ecoregion
if it is able to persist in this ecoregion.
Polypedilum nubifer (Skuse) is a eurytopic midge commonly found in
eutrophic and anthropogenically disturbed waters (Wiederholm 1983) within
tropical-subtropical Australasian, Afrotropical, Oriental, and Palaearctic
regions (Jacobsen and Perry 2007). Larvae of P. nubifer have been reported
to damage rice seedlings in China (Wang 2000), and swarms of P. nubifer
emerging from waters near human population centers have been documented
to be a nuisance in Australia, Asia, and Hawaii (Jacobsen and Perry 2007).
This species has also been introduced to North America, where it has been
collected in Florida (Jacobsen and Perry 2007).
A range extension for P. nubifer in North America is reported based upon
larvae of this exotic midge collected during 19 and 20 September 2007 from
reaches of New Madrid County Ditch (NMCD) and Indian Camp Slough
(ICS) in the Southeastern Lowlands physiographic region in Missouri
(Fig. 1). The Southeastern Lowlands of Missouri are at the extreme northern
end of the Coastal Plains Ecoregion (USEPA 2006), and are characterized
by streams that have been highly modified by channelization, levees, and
irrigation to permit agricultural enterprise. Many farms in the Southeastern
Lowlands include rice in their crop rotation.
Aquatic macroinvertebrate samples containing larvae of P. nubifer were
collected by sampling depositional pool and submerged rootmat habitats with
500-μm mesh bottom aquatic kick nets (Sarver et al. 2002). Midge larvae in
the samples were mounted on glass slides with coverslips and identified via
compound light microscope using taxonomic keys and descriptive information
provided in Epler (2001), Merritt et al. (2008), and Wiederholm (1983).
Larvae of P. nubifer can be distinguished from those of congeners in North
America by the alternate arrangement of the Lauterborn organs of the antenna
(Cranston 2007, Wiederholm 1983). Midge taxa were more diverse in samples
from NMCD than at ICS (Table 1), where P. nubifer composed, respectively,
7% and 2% of the midge larvae sampled. Six midge taxa—Cricotopus bicinctus,
Dicrotendipes sp., Larsia sp., Microtendipes sp., Paratendipes sp., and
Procladius sp.—collected with P. nubifer, have not previously been reported
to co-occur with this exotic in North America. Depositional pool, submerged
rootmat, and submerged woody debris habitats were sampled at NMCD, but
only depositional pool habitat was available at ICS. Thirty specimens of P.
nubifer were collected from depositional pool habitat at NMCD, and one
Notes of the Southeastern Nat u ral ist, Issue 8/3, 2009
560 Southeastern Naturalist Notes Vol. 8, No. 3
specimen was collected from depositional pool habitat at ICS. A single specimen
also occurred in a submerged rootmat habitat sample from NMCD. No
specimens of P. nubifer were found in samples brushed from the surface of
submerged woody debris habitat.
Water quality characteristics sampled once at ICS during 26 June 2007
and once at NMCD during 13 August 2007 are provided in Table 2. In
Figure 1. Map of locations where Polypedilum nubifer was collected in Missouri during 19 and
20 September 2007.
2009 Southeastern Naturalist Notes 561
general, water quality at ICS and NMCD was similar, or superior to, mean
values of water quality found at 89 randomly selected sites sampled across
the Coastal Plains Ecoregion during summer 2004 as part of the United
States Environmental Protection Agency Wadeable Streams Assessment
(Table 2; USEPA 2008). This finding suggests P. nubifer is potentially capable
of invading additional waters within the ecoregion.
Table 2. Water quality characteristics of stream reaches sampled during 26 June and 13 August
2007 where Polypedilum nubifer was collected in Missouri during 19 and 20 September 2007
compared to mean values of select water quality characteristics for approximately 89 sites
sampled throughout the Coastal Plains Ecoregion during summer of 2004. Temp = temperature
(°C), Cond = conductivity (uS/cm), Turb = turbidity (NTU), DO = dissolved oxygen (ppm), TP
= total phosphorus (μg/L), TN = total nitrogen (mg/L), NO = nitrate/nitrite (mg/L), NH = ammonia
(mg/L), NVSS = non-volatile suspended solids (mg/L), VSS = volatile suspended solids
(mg/L), Chlor = total chlorophyll (μg/L), NMCD = New Madrid County Ditch, ICS = Indian
Camp Slough, CPE = Coastal Plains Ecoregion.
Stream Temp Cond pH Turb DO TP TN NO NH NVSS VSS Chlor
NMCD 32.5 5.09 8.19 9.1 8.99 333 1.25 0.292 0.116 52.67 10.0 5.5
ICS 24.4 3.22 7.81 76.7 6.60 155 0.65 0.034 0.089 10.86 1.5 6.2
CPE 22.4 5.28 6.85 18.3 1.750 0.153
Table 1. Midge taxa identified in samples from stream reaches where Polypedilum nubifer was
collected in Missouri during 19 and 20 September 2007. NMCD = New Madrid County Ditch,
ICS = Indian Camp Slough.
Taxa NMCD ICS
Ablabesmyia sp. 2 21
Chironomus sp. 2 0
Cladotanytarsus sp. 105 0
Cricotopus bicinctus 2 0
Cryptochironomus sp. 2 0
Dicrotendipes sp. 94 18
Goeldichironomus sp. 2 0
Labrundinia sp. 8 6
Larsia sp. 59 9
Microtendipes sp. 1 0
Nanocladius sp. 1 0
Parachironomus sp. 16 0
Paratendipes sp. 6 0
Polypedilum sp. 3 0
Polypedilum convictum group 1 0
Polypedilum halterale group 2 0
Polypedilum illinoense group 8 0
Polypedilum nubifer 31 1
Polypedilum scalaenum group 4 0
Procladius sp. 1 0
Tanytarsus sp. 95 8
Ceratopogoninae 11 4
Dasyheleinae 2 0
562 Southeastern Naturalist Notes Vol. 8, No. 3
Jacobsen and Perry (2007) collected P. nubifer in southern Florida from
shallow, man-made detention ponds subject to periodic fl ooding and drying
during seasonal operation in 2002. Irrigation of rice and other crops in
the Southeastern Lowlands of Missouri causes much of the farm land and
adjacent drainage ditches to fl ood and dry in an intermittent cycle similar to
that reported by Jacobsen and Perry (2007). Our records extend the known
distribution of this exotic species from the southern end of the Coastal Plains
Ecoregion in Florida to the northern end in Missouri. This distribution indicates
the entire Coastal Plains Ecoregion may have suitable habitat for P.
nubifer . It is unknown if P. nubifer will displace populations of endemic
midge fauna, or what other possible ecological consequences could be associated
with occurrence of this exotic species in North America. However,
occurrence of the exotic P. nubifer in the Southeastern Lowlands of Missouri
and likely across the Coastal Plains Ecoregion is significant given the nuisance
potential of the species.
Acknowledgments. We thank Dr. John H. Epler for confirming our Polypedilum
nubifer identifications. Mike Allen and David Knuth collected P.
nubifer specimens in the field. Raissa Espejo, Amy Jungclaus, and Lance
Dorsey assisted in processing macroinvertebrate community samples.
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¹Missouri Department of Conservation, Resource Science Center, 1110 South College Avenue,
Columbia, MO 65201. ²Missouri Department of Conservation, Agriculture Systems Field Station,
3500 South Baltimore, Kirksville, MO 63501. *Corresponding author - email@example.com.