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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Worldwide population genetic structure of the oriental fruit moth (Grapholita molesta), a globally invasive pest

Heather Kirk12, Silvia Dorn1 and Dominique Mazzi1*

Author Affiliations

1 ETH Zurich, Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Applied Entomology, Schmelzbergstrasse 9/LFO, Zurich 8092, Switzerland

2 Current address: Institute of Systematic Botany, University of Zurich, Zollikerstrasse 107, Zurich 8008, Switzerland

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BMC Ecology 2013, 13:12  doi:10.1186/1472-6785-13-12

Published: 25 March 2013



Invasive pest species have large impacts on agricultural crop yields, and understanding their population dynamics is important for ensuring food security. The oriental fruit moth Grapholita molesta is a cosmopolitan pest of stone and pome fruit species including peach and apple, and historical records indicate that it has invaded North and South America, Europe, Australia and Africa from its putative native range in Asia over the past century.


We used 13 microsatellite loci, including nine newly developed markers, to characterize global population structure of G. molesta. Approximately 15 individuals from each of 26 globally distributed populations were genotyped. A weak but significant global pattern of isolation-by-distance was found, and G. molesta populations were geographically structured on a continental scale. Evidence does not support that G. molesta was introduced to North America from Japan as previously proposed. However, G. molesta was probably introduced from North America to The Azores, South Africa, and Brazil, and from East Asia to Australia. Shared ancestry was inferred between populations from Western Europe and from Brazil, although it remains unresolved whether an introduction occurred from Europe to Brazil, or vice versa. Both genetic diversity and levels of inbreeding were surprisingly high across the range of G. molesta and were not higher or lower overall in introduced areas compared to native areas. There is little evidence for multiple introductions to each continent (except in the case of South America), or for admixture between populations from different origins.


Cross-continental introductions of G. molesta appear to be infrequent, which is surprising given its rapid worldwide expansion over the past century. We suggest that area-wide spread via transport of fruits and other plant materials is a major mechanism of ongoing invasion, and management efforts should therefore target local and regional farming communities and distribution networks.

Microsatellites; Human-mediated dispersal; Isolation-by-distance; Invasive pest; Genetic structure; Population differentiation; Oriental fruit moth