The entomopathogenic fungus Metarhizium anisopliae var. acridum is being developed for use as a mycoinsecticide against locusts and grasshoppers in Africa. In addition to causing significant mortality, studies have shown the pathogen to cause reductions in feeding of a number of target species during the disease incubation period. The present study extends this work by demonstrating significant reductions in feeding following infection in another important pest species, the brown locust Locustana pardalina (Walker). Insects collected from the field following a spray application and subsequently maintained in a field laboratory showed a significant reduction in per capita feeding, as indicated by faecal production, as early as 2 days after treatment; this was before any pathogen-induced mortality. This per capita reduction in feeding by infected individuals contributed to a total reduction in feeding of 65% relative to controls. In addition to this laboratory based assessment, experiments were conducted to examine the effects of infection on mortality, feeding and fecundity in the field. Mortality rates of infected individuals in the field were significantly slower than those in the laboratory (average survival time of approximately 39 days compared with 6 days), although total mortality and percentage mycosis were equivalent. Treated individuals showed a significant reduction in body fat accumulation at sexual maturity compared with controls. This may reduce dispersal ability and total reproductive fitness. However, treated individuals exhibited a reduced pre-oviposition period resulting in them laying more eggs than untreated individuals within the first weeks following fledging. Thus, no significant reductions in fecundity were recorded by the end of the assessment period when mortality of treated individuals exceeded 90%. Given that many untreated locusts were still alive and had the potential to continue oviposition for several more weeks, however, it is likely that differences in fecundity would have become apparent if the assessment had continued. These results provide important insights for evaluating overall impacts of spray applications of the mycoinsecticide.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Agronomy and Crop Science
- Insect Science