Rapid spread of the tomato leafminer, Tuta absoluta (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae), an invasive pest in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The invasive tomato leafminer, Tuta absoluta (Meyrick) (Lepidoptera, Gelechiidae) has become a real threat for the continued production of tomatoes across Sub-Saharan Africa since its first detection in Senegal. However, little is known of its geographical expansion, seasonal population dynamics, and damage to crops. A trapping network was deployed in 2014 and 2015 in Senegal to monitor the dynamics of T. absoluta populations at a regional and nationwide scale. A field network was also implemented in the most infested area to get information on the pest incidence during the 2013-2014 cropping season. In 2014, pheromone traps did not detect the presence of T. absoluta moths in remote areas of Eastern Senegal. In 2015, moths were detected in all the fifteen monitored areas deployed throughout the country. Abundance of trapped moths was greatest in 'Niayes', the main tomato-producing area. Unexpectedly, T. absoluta moths were trapped in some areas with few or no tomato crops, including off-season in the 'Vallée du fleuve', hot drylands ('Matam' and 'Kidira') and urban environments ('Dakar'). This suggests high mobility of moth populations and capacity to survive in harsh environments and to persist on alternative host plants. Field monitoring in the main tomato-producing area showed a very low incidence of T. absoluta over the early dry season (0-2% mined leaves), followed by severe outbreaks during the late dry season (up to 60% mined leaves). Results on the invasive pest occurrence will be helpful to decision-makers with a view to develop alternative strategies such as biological control by indigenous natural enemies or collective management strategies based on the temporal or spatial exclusion of host crops.