Predators of Mesoplatys Ochroptera in Sesbania Planted-fallows in Eastern Zambia
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Mesoplatys ochroptera Stål (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) is a serious pest of the tropical legume sesbania (Sesbania sesban (L.) Merrill) widely used for soil fertility improvement in southern Africa. Surveys were conducted between October 1997 and June 1999 in order to identify the predators of M. ochroptera in sesbania fallows in eastern Zambia. The Heteroptera Afrius yolofa (Guérin-Méneville), Glypsus conspicuus (Westwood), Macrorhaphis acuta Dallas, Mecosoma mensor (Germar), Rhinocoris segmentarius (Germar), and Deraeocoris ostentans (Stål), the carabid beetle Cyaneodinodes fasciger (Chaudoir), the ants Tetramorium sericeiventre Emery and Pheidole sp., and the lacewing Mallada sp. were recorded as predators of M. ochroptera for the first time. The pentatomid bugs G. conspicuus, M. acuta and M. mensor were the most common predators in sesbania fallows. Adults and the different nymphal stages of the three species preyed on larvae, adults and occasionally on eggs of the beetle. In the insectary, the adults of G. conspicuus, M. acuta and M. mensor consumed a significantly higher number of larvae (p < 0.001) compared to adults of M. ochroptera under both free-choice and no-choice conditions. The voracity of the three species showed a positive response to prey density. The fifth instar nymphs showed variation in daily consumption of larvae, the highest number of prey being consumed two to three days after the fourth molt. These predators also attacked other pests associated with sesbania and crop plants. The potential role of the predators in the natural control of pests in agroforestry systems is discussed, with a review of their prey species.