Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

The biology of Dactylopius tomentosus (Hemiptera: Dactylopiidae).

Abstract

Dactylopius tomentosus (Lamarck) (Hemiptera: Dactylopiidae) is a cochineal insect whose host range is restricted to Cylindropuntia species (Caryophyllales: Cactaceae). This insect has been utilized successfully for biological control of Cylindropuntia imbricata (Haw.) F.M. Knuth in Australia and South Africa. Despite this, its biology has not been studied previously, probably due to the widely held belief that the biology of all Dactylopius species is similar. This study investigated the life cycle and the morphological and reproductive characteristics of D. tomentosus. Results revealed some unique characteristics of D. tomentosus: (i) eggs undergo a much longer incubation period, an average of 17 days compared to <1 day in its congeners; (ii) eggs are laid singly but are retained as an egg mass secured in a mesh of waxy threads attached to the female; (iii) the developmental times of males and females are longer compared to other Dactylopius spp. due to a longer egg incubation period; (iv) D. tomentosus does not undergo parthenogenesis; (v) D. tomentosus is smaller in size than its congeners; and (vi) male mating capacity and reproductive potential were both high and variable between males. There was a significant, strong, positive relationship (r=0.93) between female mass and fecundity, whereas the relationship between the number of females mated per male that became gravid and their fecundity was negative (r=-0.68). Besides contributing to our knowledge of this economically important species, the finding of unique characteristics of D. tomentosus biology underlines the need to study each species in this genus.