Invasive Species Compendium

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Abstract

Seasonal variation in natural mortality factors of Tuta absoluta (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae) in open-field tomato cultivation.

Abstract

The seasonal variation in natural mortality of phytophagous insects is determined by the relative importance of biotic and abiotic factors in agroecosystems. Knowledge regarding these factors throughout the year represents a key concern for IPM programmes. Seasonal population fluctuations of tomato pinworm, Tuta absoluta, led to an investigation of its natural mortality factors during the rainy season when the population level is low and during the dry season when population peaks occur. The aim of this study was to verify the seasonal variation in T. absoluta mortality factors in tomato crops. Immature stages of T. absoluta were obtained from laboratory-rearing in the laboratory. These were taken to the field and monitored over two years. The mortality causes for each stage of insect development from egg to adult were assessed daily. Multiple biotic and abiotic mortality factors affected the immature T. absoluta stages such as rainfall, physiological disturbances, diseases, parasitoids and predators. The key T. absoluta mortality factor during summer-spring was predation. In addition, larvae predation correlated positively with temperature, wind velocity, photoperiod and rainfall. Nevertheless, during winter-fall, the key mortality factor was parasitism. Therefore, the critical stage for mortality was 3rd- and 4th-instar larvae, being more vulnerable to natural control factors. Finally, the results showed the importance of vertical and horizontal action on natural mortality factors.