Impact of an exotic invasive pest, Spodoptera frugiperda (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), on resident communities of pest and natural enemies in maize fields in Kenya.
The interactions among insect communities influence the composition of pest complexes that attack crops and, in parallel, their natural enemies, which regulate their abundance. The lepidopteran stemborers have been the major maize pests in Kenya. Their population has been regulated by natural enemies, mostly parasitoids, some of which have been used for biological control. It is not known how a new exotic invasive species, such as the fall armyworm (FAW), Spodoptera frugiperda (Lepidoptera, Noctuidae), may affect the abundance and parasitism of the resident stemborers. For this reason, pest and parasitism surveys have been conducted, before and after the FAW invaded Kenya, in maize fields in 40 localities across 6 agroecological zones (AEZs) during the maize-growing season, as well as at 3 different plant growth stages (pre-tasseling, reproductive, and senescence stages) in 2 elevations at mid-altitude, where all maize stemborer species used to occur together. Results indicated that the introduction of the FAW significantly correlated with the reduction of the abundance of the resident communities of maize stemborers and parasitoids in maize fields; moreover, the decrease of stemborer density after the arrival of FAW occurred mostly at both reproductive and senescent maize stages. It also suggests a possible displacement of stemborers by FAW elsewhere; for example, to other cereals. However, since this study was conducted only three years after the introduction of the FAW, further studies will need to be conducted to confirm such displacements.