Distribution, abundance and natural enemies of the invasive tomato leafminer, Tuta absoluta (Meyrick) in Kenya.
Tuta absoluta (Meyrick) has become a serious menace to sustainable production of tomato in Kenya. A survey was conducted between April 2015 and June 2016 to determine its distribution, abundance, infestation, and damage levels on tomato, and associated natural enemies. Trap counts of T. absoluta moths were recorded in all surveyed 29 counties, which indicated its nationwide distribution irrespective of altitude. Tuta absoluta was present in both open fields and greenhouses. The highest moth/trap/day was 115.38 ± 15.90. Highest leaf infestation was 92.22% and the highest number of mines and larvae per leaf were 3.71 ± 0.28 and 2.16 ± 0.45, respectively. Trap captures in terms of moth/trap/day were linearly and positively related to leaf infestations in open fields (R2 = 0.81) and greenhouses (R2 = 0.61). Highest fruits' infestation and damage were 60.00 and 59.61%, respectively, while the highest number of mines per fruit was 7.50 ± 0.50. Nesidiocoris tenuis (Reuter) and Macrolophus pygmaeus (Rambur) were identified as predators of T. absoluta larvae. Nine species of larval parasitoids were recovered from infested foliage, with a combined parasitism of 7.26 ± 0.65%. Hockeria species was the most dominant (31.25%) and accounted for 12.88 ± 1.47% parasitism. Two species of larval parasitoids, Hockeria and Necremnus were obtained from sentinel plants with an average parasitism of 1.13 ± 0.25. The overall abundance and parasitism rates of recovered natural enemies were low to effectively control the field populations of T. absoluta. These findings form the basis of researching and developing effective and sustainable management strategies for the pest.