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A chironomid midge, Cricotopus lebetis (Sublette) (Diptera: Chironomidae), was discovered attacking the apical meristems of Hydrilla verticillata (L.f. Royle) in Crystal River, Citrus Co., Florida in 1992. The larvae mine the stems of H. verticillata and cause basal branching and stunting of the plant. Temperature-dependent development, cold tolerance, and the potential distribution of the midge were investigated. The results of the temperature-dependent development study showed that optimal temperatures for larval development were between 20 and 30°C, and these data were used to construct a map of the potential number of generations per year of C. lebetis in Florida. Data from the cold tolerance study, in conjunction with historical weather data, were used to generate a predicted distribution of C. lebetis in the United States. A distribution was also predicted using an ecological niche modeling approach by characterizing the climate at locations where C. lebetis is known to occur and then finding other locations with similar climate. The distributions predicted using the two modeling approaches were not significantly different and suggested that much of the southeastern United States was climatically suitable for C. lebetis.
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