Factors Affecting Stem Borer Parasitoid Species Diversity and Parasitism in Cultivated and Natural Habitats
Kairu, E. W.
Mailafiya, D. M.
Le Ru, B. P.
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The effects of biotic and abiotic factors on stem borer parasitoid diversity, abundance, and parasitism were studied in cultivated and natural habitats in four agroecological zones in Kenya. Comparing habitat types, we found partial support for the “natural enemy” hypothesis, whereby, across all localities, parasitoid diversity was higher in more diverse host plant communities in natural habitats, whereas parasitoid abundance was higher in cultivated habitats. For both habitats, parasitoid richness was mainly influenced by stem borer density and/or its interaction with stem borer richness, whereas parasitoid abundance was mainly affected by stem borer abundance. Parasitoid richness was higher in localities (with bimodal rainfall distribution) with increased spatial and temporal availability of host plants that harbored the borers. Across seasons, parasitoid richness was lower in both cultivated and natural habitats in the driest locality, Mtito Andei. Overall, parasitoid diversity was low in Suam and Mtito Andei, where maize cultivation was practiced on a commercial scale and intense grazing activities persist across seasons, respectively. Across localities, habitats, and seasons, stem borer parasitism was positively correlated with parasitoid richness and abundance. Furthermore, the interaction of rainfall and altitude influenced the presence and absence of parasitoids, and consequently, stem borer parasitism. Parasitism was positively and negatively correlated with temperature in cultivated and natural habitats, respectively. Overall, natural habitats seem to serve as important refugia for sustaining parasitoid diversity, which in turn can affect stem borer parasitism in the cereal cropping system.