The ecology of the South African citrus thrips, Scirtothrips aurantii Faure and its economic implications

Gilbert, Martin Jeffray (1993) The ecology of the South African citrus thrips, Scirtothrips aurantii Faure and its economic implications. PhD thesis, Rhodes University.

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Abstract

The South African Citrus Thrips, Scirtothrips aurantii Faure (Thysanoptera: Thripidae) has been a serious pest of the citrus industry of Southern Africa for over 70 years. It is indigenous to Africa and has no recorded parasitoids and, in most citrus-growing regions, predators are not economically effective. Firstly, in this study, the general ecology of thrips was reviewed along with the recorded history of S. aurantii and its control. Host plant relationships of S. aurantii were then examined and wild hosts were not found to be important in promoting citrus thrips outbreaks in the orchard after flowering. In addition, Scirtothrips dorsalis Hood, which attacks citrus in Asia, was collected for the first time in Africa, but from Castor Oil plant. It is therefore a potential pest of citrus here. Notes on its appearance compared to that of S. aurantii were prepared. Weekly sampling of S. aurantii adults was carried out from June 1984 to May 1990. Population fluctuations were then correlated with phenology of the citrus trees and the direct and indirect effects of weather. Temperature and rainfall were not found to be significantly directly correlated with thrips numbers recorded. However, the indirect effects of rainfall were important in promoting a large winter thrips population in certain years. Relatively high rainfall during March and April compared to that of the previous January and February stimulated atypical flushing of the citrus trees during autumn and the setting of out-of-season fruit. S. aurantii then exploited this unusual food source and high numbers were subsequently recorded in the following winter; as well as in spring. Thus the mild winter climate alone could not suppress thrips numbers at Letaba. Dispersal/Emergence traps, which are used in the U.S.A. for the monitoring of Scirtothrips citri, were evaluated over 24 months, and were effective in recording population peaks of S. aurantii. The emergence rate of adults in relation to second instar larvae trapped was 43.7%. 35.7% of adults caught after emerging from the soil were males and 64.3 were females. In contrast, yellow traps had recorded 59.1% males and 40.9% females over the same period. The yellow traps were subsequently found to be biased towards male catches when young fruit and/or soft flush was present on the citrus trees. Relative inhibition of female flight activity during times of food abundance is known in other thrips species. During times of food scarcity, the bias in the yellow trap results disappeared. At Letaba Estates, availability of food rather than the direct effects of weather was seen to be the most important factor in governing S. aurantii numbers. Because of the importance of soft flush in the promotion of S. aurantii population increase, it is recommended that more attention should be given to the control of thrips on, as well as conducting surveys for, this food source. As the climate at Letaba is so favourable for citrus thrips, even during winter, it is further recommended that trapping for S. aurantii is carried out throughout the year. Furthermore, males and females should be recorded separately in trapping results as the sex ratio gives an indication of the phenological state of the tree.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Citrus industry, South Africa, Thrips, Scirtothrips aurantii Faure, Ecology, Relationships, Host-plant, Scirtothrips dorsalis Hood, Rainfall, Letaba, Population, Food, Control
Subjects:Q Science > QL Zoology > Invertebrates > Insects
S Agriculture > SB Plant culture
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Science > Zoology & Entomology
Supervisors:Compton, S.G. and Hepburn, R.
ID Code:4061
Deposited By: Philip Clarke
Deposited On:19 Nov 2012 06:13
Last Modified:19 Nov 2012 06:13
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