Efficacy of the African weaver ant Oecophylla longinoda (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in the control of Helopeltis spp. (Hemiptera: Miridae) and Pseudotheraptus wayi (Hemiptera: Coreidae) in cashew crop in Tanzania.
BACKGROUND: Cashew, Anacardium occidentale, is an economically important cash crop for more than 300000 rural households in Tanzania. Its production is, however, severely constrained by infestation by sap-sucking insects such as Helopeltis anacardii, H. schoutedeni and Pseudotheraptus wayi. The African weaver ant, Oecophylla longinoda, is an effective biocontrol agent of hemipteran pests in coconuts in Tanzania, but its efficacy in the control of Helopeltis spp. and P. wayi in Tanzanian cashew has not been investigated so far. The aim of this study was therefore to evaluate the efficacy of O. longinoda in the management of these insect pests in the cashew crop at different sites of the Coast region of Tanzania. RESULTS: Colonisation levels of O. longinoda, expressed as weaver ant trails, varied from 57.1 to 60.6% and from 58.3 to 67.5% in 2010 and 2011 respectively. The mean number of leaf nests per tree varied from five to eight nests in 2010 and from five to nine nests in 2011. There was a negative correlation between numbers of nests and pest damage. Oecophylla longinoda-colonised cashew trees had the lowest shoot damage by Helopeltis spp. of 4.8 and 7.5% in 2010 and 2011, respectively, as opposed to uncolonised cashew trees with 36 and 30% in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Similarly, nut damage by P. wayi was lowest in O. longinoda-colonised trees, with only 2.4 and 6.2% in 2010 and 2011 as opposed to uncolonised trees with 26 and 21%. CONCLUSION: Oecophylla longinoda is an effective biocontrol agent of the sap-sucking pests of cashew in the Coast region of Tanzania and should be considered as an important component of IPM.