Continental-scale suppression of an invasive pest by a host-specific parasitoid heralds a new era for arthropod biological control
- Subject Areas
- Agricultural Science, Biodiversity, Ecology, Ecosystem Science, Entomology
- ecosystem services, ecological intensification, insect biological control, tropical agro-ecosystems, sustainable agriculture, invasion biology, ecological safety, insect parasitism
- © 2018 Wyckhuys et al.
- This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction and adaptation in any medium and for any purpose provided that it is properly attributed. For attribution, the original author(s), title, publication source (PeerJ Preprints) and either DOI or URL of the article must be cited.
- Cite this article
- 2018. Continental-scale suppression of an invasive pest by a host-specific parasitoid heralds a new era for arthropod biological control. PeerJ Preprints 6:e27009v1 https://doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.27009v1
Biological control constitutes one of the world’s prime ecosystems services, and can provide long-term and broad-scale suppression of invasive pests, weeds and pathogens in both natural and agricultural environments. Following (very few) widely-documented historic cases that led to sizeable environmental up-sets, the discipline of insect biological control has -over the past three decades- gone through much-needed reform. Now, by deliberately taking into account the ecological risks associated with insect biological control, immense environmental and societal benefits can be gained. In this study, we document and analyze a rare, successful case of biological control against the invasive mealybug, Phenacoccus manihoti (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) which invaded Southeast Asia in 2008, where it caused substantial crop losses and triggered 2- to 3-fold surges in agricultural commodity prices. In 2009, the host-specific parasitoid Anagyrus lopezi (Hymenoptera: Encyrtidae) was released in Thailand and subsequently introduced into neighboring Asian countries. Drawing upon continental-scale insect surveys, multi-year population studies and (field-level) experimental assays, we show how A. lopezi attained intermediate to high parasitism rates across diverse agro-ecological contexts. Driving mealybug populations below non-damaging levels at a continental scale, A. lopezi allowed yield recoveries up to 10.0 t/ha and provided biological control services worth several hundred dollars per ha (at local farm-gate prices) in Asia’s 4-million ha cassava crop. Our work provides lessons to invasion science and crop protection worldwide, heralds a new era for insect biological control, and highlights its potentially large socio-economic benefits to agricultural sustainability in the face of a debilitating invasive pest. In times of unrelenting insect invasions, surging pesticide use and accelerating (invertebrate) biodiversity loss across the globe, this study unequivocally demonstrates how biological control – as a pure public good – constitutes a powerful, cost-effective and environmentally-responsible solution for invasive species mitigation.
This is a submission to PeerJ for review.
Mealybug distribution records and parasitoid presence
Database with mealybug incidence and abundance records, combined with A. lopezi field-level presence data.