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Distinguishing suitable biotypes of Dactylopius tomentosus (Hemiptera: Dactylopiidae) for biological control of Cylindropuntia fulgida var. fulgida (Caryophyllales: Cactaceae) in South Africa

  • C.W. Mathenge (a1) (a2) (a3), P. Holford (a3), J.H. Hoffmann (a1), H.G. Zimmermann (a2), R. Spooner-Hart (a3) and G.A.C. Beattie (a3)...
Abstract

Cylindropuntia fulgida (Engelmann) F.M. Knuth var. fulgida (Engelmann) F.M. Knuth (Cff) (Caryophyllales: Cactaceae) is native to Mexico and Arizona and was introduced into South Africa for ornamental purposes. It subsequently became highly invasive, necessitating control. The cochineal insect, Dactylopius tomentosus (Lamarck) (Hemiptera: Dactylopiidae), was selected as a potential biological control agent based on its restricted host range among Cylindropuntia species and previous success in controlling C. imbricata (DC.) F. Knuth (Ci). Eight D. tomentosus provenances (Cholla, Cholla E, Fulgida, Mamillata, Imbricata, Tunicata U, Tunicata V and Rosea) from Cylindropuntia species in their native ranges were reared on Cff, whilst Cholla and Imbricata were also reared on Ci. Large differences were found in the development and survival of crawlers, and in the reproductive capacity of females. Three subjective categories of provenance interaction with host plants were identified based on a fitness index (FI) calculated from data relating to crawler survival, female development time and fecundity: (i) thriving (FI≥1) – insects had shorter developmental times, high crawler survival and highly fecund females (Cholla); (ii) surviving (FI<1 but >0) – insects had extended development times, low crawler survival and low fecundity (Imbricata, Fulgida and Mamillata); and (iii) dying (FI=0) – insects died before or at the second instar (Rosea, Tunicata U and Tunicata V). Cholla, therefore, is highly suitable for biological control of Cff in South Africa. In addition, Cholla thrived on Cff but only survived on Ci whilst, in contrast, Imbricata thrived on Ci but only survived on Cff. This differential ability of provenances to thrive or survive on different host plants demonstrated that host adapted biotypes of D. tomentosus exist; therefore, biotypes should be taken into account when considering this species as a biological control agent of cactus weeds.

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*Author for correspondence Fax: +61 2 4570 1314 E-mail: p.holford@uws.edu.au
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