Population dynamics of Thaumastocoris peregrinus in Eucalyptus plantations of South Africa

19 May 2015

Thaumastocoris peregrinus is a sap-sucking insect that infests non-native Eucalyptus plantations in Africa, New Zealand, South America and parts of Southern Europe, in addition to street trees in parts of its native range of Australia. In South Africa, pronounced fluctuations in the population densities have been observed. To characterise spatiotemporal variability in T. peregrinus abundance and the factors that might influence it, we monitored adult population densities at six sites in the main eucalypt growing regions of South Africa. At each site, twenty yellow sticky traps were monitored weekly for 30 months,together with climatic data. We also characterised the influence of temperature on growth and survival experimentally and used this to model how temperature may influence population dynamics. T. peregrinus was present throughout the year at all sites, with annual site-specific peaks in abundance. Peaks occurred during autumn (February– April) for the Pretoria site, summer (November– January) for the Zululand site and spring (August–October) for the Tzaneen, Sabie and Piet Retief monitoring sites. Temperature (both experimental and field-collected), humidity and rainfall were mostly weakly, or not at all, associated with population fluctuations. It is clear that a complex interaction of these and other factors (e.g. host quality) influence population fluctuations in an annual, site specific cycle. The results obtained not only provide insights into the biology of T. peregrinus, but will also be important for future planning of monitoring and control programs using semiochemicals, chemical insecticides or biological control agents.