Potential of Oecophylla longinoda (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) for management of Helopeltis spp. (Hemiptera: Miridae) and Pseudotheraptus wayi (Hemiptera: Coreidae) in cashew in Tanzania
Olotu, Moses Iwatasia
MetadataShow full item record
Cashew, Anacardium occidentale Linnaeus, is an economically important cash crop for more than 300,000 rural households in Tanzania. Its production is, however, severely constrained by infestation by sap-sucking insects such as Helopeltis anacardii Miller, H. Schoutedeni Reuter and Pseudotheraptus wayi Brown. The African weaver ant (AWA), Oecophylla longinoda Latreille, is an effective biocontrol agent of hemipteran pests in coconuts in Tanzania; but its efficacy for the control of sap-sucking insects, especially Helopeltis spp. and P. wayi, has not been investigated so far in cashew crops in Tanzania. Field trials were carried out at the Coast region of Tanzania to evaluate the effect of seasonality and abundance of AWA on Helopeltis spp. and P. wayi. Results showed that AWA abundance expressed, as number of leaf nests per tree, and colonization of trails on main branches varied significantly between cashew-seasons and off-seasons. There was a negative correlation between numbers of nests and pest damage. AWA-colonized cashew trees had the lowest shoot damaged by Helopeltis spp., 4.8 and 7.5% in 2010 and 2011, respectively, compared to 36 and 30% in 2010 and 2011, respectively, in uncolonized cashew trees. Similarly, nut damage by P.wayi was lowest in AWA-colonized trees with 2.4 and 6.2% in 2010 and 2011, respectively, as compared to 26 and 21% in 2010 and 2011, respectively, in uncolonized trees. Interaction between AWA and dominant ant species, namely big-headed ant (BHA), Pheidole megacephala Fabricius, and common pugnacious ant (CPA), Anoplolepis custodiens Smith, was examined because of the implication that the dominant ant species may have on the efficacy of AWA in its control of sap-sucking pests of cashew. Abundance of AWA was significantly negatively correlated to BHA (r(39) = -0.30; P < 0.0001) and CPA (r(39) = -0.18; P = 0.01) at Bagamoyo in 2010. A similar trend was also observed at Mkuranga. The presence of these ant species may therefore hinder effectiveness of AWA to control sap-sucking pests in cashew in Tanzania. Therefore, suppression of these two inimical ant species should be emphasized for effective control of the sap-sucking pests in cashew fields. It was therefore also important to establish the abundance and diversity of ant species occurring in cashew agro-ecosystems. Results from pitfall traps revealed the diversity and abundance of ants in cashew agro-ecosystems: a total of 14001 ants were trapped belonging to six subfamilies, 18 genera and 32 species. The ant species diversity was high in the cashew fields at two of the four sites, namely Mkuranga A and Kibaha during both seasons. CPA was the most abundant ants in the pitfall traps. It is an important aspect that should be addressed for effective control of sap-sucking pests in cashew fields with AWA, since the correlation between AWA and CPA abundance was found to be negative. The effect of alternative fungicides to sulphur dust used for powdery mildew disease (PMD) on AWA was also investigated. No significant difference could be found in the effect of the different fungicides on the number of leaf nests and colonization of trails. In order to develop AWA as a component of cashew integrated sap-sucking insect management, strategies for their conservation during cashew off-seasons was evaluated. The use of fish and hydramethylon (Amdro®) as baits increased the number of leaf nests and colonization trails of AWA over the control during off-season; however, the increase was significantly high when both fish and hydramethylon were used together. Fish and hydramethylon can therefore be used for conservation of AWA during off-season. It can therefore be concluded that AWA effectively controls sap-sucking pests on cashew and can be conserved during off-season using disposal waste such as fish intestines. Fungicides used for the control of PMD did not have detrimental effects on AWA abundance and can therefore be integrated as a component of cashew IPM.