Spatio-temporal interactions between maize lepidopteran stemborer communities and possible implications from the recent invasion of Spodoptera frugiperda (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) in sub-Saharan Africa.
Spatio-temporal dynamics of multi-species pest communities and the interactions between them influence the structure of pest complex that attack crops. In East and Southern Africa, cereal crops, especially maize, is attacked by a complex of lepidopteran stemborer species made up of Busseola fusca (Fuller) and Sesamia calamistis Hampson (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), and Chilo partellus (Swinhoe) (Lepidoptera: Crambidae). There is inadequate information on the extent of single- and multi-species infestations by this pest complex, their current spatio-temporal variations, and the primary abiotic factors that influence these. Furthermore, the recent invasion of the fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda J.E. Smith, in sub-Saharan Africa will likely influence this stemborer community structure. Sampling was conducted in maize fields to record stemborer species and larval numbers from infested plants, in 28 localities found in six agro-ecological zones (AEZs) of Kenya and parts of Tanzania, as well as in one locality in the mid-altitudes where the three stemborer species occurred together. Both single- and multi-species stemborer communities characterized infestation of maize at field and plant levels, but varied in proportions between the AEZs. Infestation patterns and larval densities varied between seasons at mid-locality stemborer communities followed a clustered distribution pattern. Temperature was the most significant abiotic factor influencing the composition of stemborer communities at all spatial scales. Rainfall was significant only at the local scale. Results are discussed in relation to current stemborer community structures in maize fields and what the likely potential implications are, in the light of climate change and the recent establishment of the fall armyworm in Africa.