Molecular determination of the predator community of a cassava whitefly in Colombia: pest-specific primer development and field validation
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In South America, the whitefly Aleurotrachelus socialis is one of the principal pests of cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz), reaching high population levels throughout the Andean region. Management of this species is primarily based upon the use of insecticides, while biological control has received limited attention. Till present, knowledge of A. socialis natural enemies is restricted to occasional records of predators and parasitoids. In this study, we developed PCR primer sets specific for the cassava whitefly, A. socialis, to identify their predator community in Colombian cassava. Eleven percent of 586 predator specimens (representing 131 taxa from 29 families) tested positive for cassava whitefly DNA. Of the 21 predator taxa that consumed cassava whiteflies, an unidentified netwing beetle (Lycidae), an unidentified spider species (Araneae), Harmonia axyridis (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae), a Cereaochrysa sp. (Neuroptera: Chrysopidae), and a Leucochrysa sp. (Chrysopidae) were the taxa that consumed cassava whiteflies most frequently under field conditions. Two abundant predators in the system, Delphastus sp. (Coccinellidae) and the long-legged fly, Condylostylus sp. (Diptera: Dolichopodidae), were both positive for whitefly DNA, but did not have the strongest trophic linkage to the pest relative to other predators. This study shows that a diverse predator community affects cassava whitefly in southern Colombia, and provides the groundwork for the design of cassava production systems with minimal pesticide inputs.
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