Patterns of parasitism and emergence in the gall midge Dasineura Dielsii (Diptera: Cecidomyiidae) : a biological control agent of Acacia cyclops in South Africa

Bachelor Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Acacia cyclops A. Cunn. ex G. Don is an invasive alien plant that invades fynbos and coastal dunes. Several acacia species are grown commercially in South Africa and this has limited biocontrol agents to those that reduce only reproductive capacity. Dasineura dielsii was released in 2002 as a biocontrol agent for A. cyclops. This gall-forming midge destroys inflorescences and prevents seedpods from forming, but allows continued harvesting. Insects overwinter as larvae within their galls. This study examined the levels of parasitism experienced by dormant D. dielsii larvae, as well as the trigger that causes them to break dormancy. Gall clusters were sampled over autumn and early winter, and were dissected to determine occupancy. The effects of temperature and light on dormant larvae were also examined. Observations showed that as the season progressed, more D. dielsii larvae entered dormancy. At the same time, a greater proportion of dormant larvae were parasitized. Parasitism was highest, at 18.5%, at the end of the study period, but this level of parasitism is not enough to reduce the biocontrol power of D. dielsii. A positive relationship between mass of gall clusters and the number of galls they contain was established. Larval dormancy could not be artificially broken by either light or temperature, and it appears that neither factor alone can trigger a break in dormancy.