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Specific Examples


Mexican Fruit Fly

Misc. Fruit Flies





          The biological control efforts against fruit flies of the genus Tephritidae have been extensive over the past half century, a thorough review being given in Clausen (1987). However, as it becomes increasingly apparent that the Mediterranean fruit fly, Ceratitis capitata (Wiedemann), and Mexican fruit fly, Anastrepha ludens (Loew) pose a continued threat to California's agriculture through periodic invasions of our borders, there is an urgent need to consider the application of alternative methods to chemicals in eradication and control programs. The implementation of effective biological controls at the sources of invasion as well as within the state boundaries where breeding may occur, offers an environmentally sound, non-polluting alternative. There is an urgent need to (1) search for, procure and initially evaluate natural enemies of Mediterranean and Mexican fruit flies fruit fly in natural ranges in central Africa and southern Mexico (parasites, predators and pathogens); (2) introduce and study foreign natural enemies in the adult stage, and evaluate their respective effectiveness under field conditions in Hawaii, southern Mexico, and if applicable, California; (3) attempt development of a mass production scheme of resident California fruit flies (e.g., walnut husk fly) to serve as acceptable hosts for Mediterranean fruitfly  natural enemies for use in laboratory study and periodic colonization efforts in infested areas of California, and (4) to test the feasibility of building a culture bank of Medfly and Mexican fruit fly natural enemies on resident California fruit flies for use in conjunction with other eradication and control methods (e.g., sterile-male releases, adult fly baiting) during periodic invasions of these pests and in anticipation of their possible permanent establishment in the State of California.

          The fruit flies of the family Tephritidae constitute a group of agricultural pests of worldwide importance, as they attack a wide range of fruits and vegetables. The most important are the several species of Dacus and Ceratitis, which occur in many countries of warm temperate and subtropical climates; Anastrepha, an American genus occurring from Mexico and the West Indies through South America; and Rhagoletis, with a more restricted host range, occurring in the north temperate region (Legner & Goeden  (1987). The Mediterranean fruit fly, although eradicated periodically from the state of Florida where it had "peninsular" distribution, and recently from California where it repeatedly reappears, is presently firmly established in southern Mexico. There it has been temporarily contained by a massive sterile-male and parasite release effort by the U. S. Department of Agriculture. The appearance of Anastrepha in southern Baja California during the past two years suggests that it may eventually move north and pose a continuous threat along the Mexican border. Another chronic threat has been the permanently established population in the Hawaiian Islands, from which periodic accidental invasions of California are thought to occur. Recently, Carey & Dowell (1989), Greathead & Waage (1983), Gilstrap et al (1987), Wharton (1989) and Wong & Ramadan (1990) have noted that further biological control efforts are definitely justified against fruit flies.

          Several studies have investigated the potential economic of C. capitata in California and elsewhere. Details on this and various abatement tactics may be found in UC/AID (1977) Galt & Albertson (1981), Carey (1982, 1984), Gilmore (1983), Dowell (1983), Schreibner (1983), Spitler & Couey (1983), Williamson (1983), Krainaker et al. (1987) and Carter (1990).

          The need for investigation into the biological control of fruit flies in Hawaii, Mexico and California is ever more important as it becomes recognized that insecticides, although offering expedient and predictable results under certain conditions, are often inadequate and at least perceived as dangerous, if not physically dangerous to wildlife and humans alike. As problems involving insecticidal residues and insect resistance to chemicals continue to increase, many programs directed at the control of fruit flies must ultimately be modified with increased dosages and costs to such an extent that they invariably arouse the concern and ire of naturalist and conservationist organizations. A case in point is the fire ant eradication program. By 1959 extensive damage to wildlife and domestic animals had positively been attributed to the effects of several insecticides used in the program (Clawson 1959). Fire ant control was finally declared unsuccessful in 1960, and in some states, fire ant numbers were actually reported to have increased since the eradication program began (Byrd 1960, Cottam 1959). Presently, a new effort to control fire ant is being attempted with natural enemies imported from Brazil and Argentina.

          Some investigators believe that the Mediterranean and Mexican fruit flies are already permanently established in California and that unless the current eradication effort is greatly increased, it is just a matter of time before at least one species, Medfly, will spread throughout the state (Barinaga 1990). The malathion baits currently in use against them may not be potent enough for fast eradication, as it is recognized that Medflies will not eat the bait unless that is the only substance placed in their cages (Citrograph 1990). Under outdoor conditions they may prefer to seek out clean ripening fruit.

Specific Examples

          Mediterranean Fruit Fly.--The Mediterranean fruit fly is a major pest throughout the Mediterranean region, portions of Africa, the Middle East, Central and South America, Mexico, and Hawaii, and has become established in Australia. In France, it is able to persist from year to year only in areas bordering the Mediterranean, yet survival is reported in Austria, where severe winters, with continuous frosts, can cause up to 90% mortality of the pupae (Clausen 1978). Although parasitic insects have been imported against it, 95% of the species were obtained from areas outside the fly's accepted native range in central Africa and Madagascar. However, some reductions in infestations are attributable to natural enemy activity in the invaded areas, especially when parasitoids are mass released as biotic insecticides (Wong & Ramadan 1990, Wong et al. 1990).

          The medfly was first described fin 1824 and was first noted as a pest in citrus in 1829 from shipments of oranges to England from the Azores. The fly spread throughout the world over the next 100 years and was continually noted as a destructive pest wherever it was found. The first program for the biological control of medfly was undertaken by the government of Western Australia in 1902 with the engagement of George Compere to search for natural enemies and to determine the aboriginal home of the medfly. Unfortunately Compere was never able to acertain the aboriginal home nor did he establish the parasitoids he collected from India, Sri Lanka and Brazil in Western Australia.

          The medfly invaded Hawaii in 1910 and soon thereafter the Board of Commissioners hired Filipi Silvestri to again search for natural enemies of this fly. It was determined by experts of the day that collections should concentrate in Western Africa. Therefore, Silvestri traveled for eight months through West and East Africa and South Africa. He found only six specimens of the medfly on the entire journey, but reared many parasitoids from other fruit-infesting tephritids collected along the way. He managed to establish four species in Hawaii: Opius concolor Szepligeti, Biosteres tryoni (Cameron), Coptera silvestrii Kieffer and Dirhinus anthracina Walker. Two more missions over the next 30 years were sent out in hopes of obtaining parasitoids, but only Tetrastichus giffardianus Silvestri and Biosteres fullaway (Silvestri) were established.

          Other biological control programs were undertaken in several countries where the medfly was firmly established, but these programs have not been well documented, and the extent of control of any of the parasitoid species is virtually unknown, the notable exception being Hawaii. Even in Hawaii control was never noteworthy and the medfly proglem was finally overshadowed by the introduction of Dacus dorsalis Hendel. For North America the answer to the medfly invasions starting in 1929 was complete eradication by means of fruit stripping and poisoned bait sprays.

          The success of these early and subsequent biological control programs against medfly has been variable (Gilstrap & Hart 1987, Wharton & Gilstrap 1983). In Hawaii, a cooperative biological control program initiated in 1948 involved the release of 32 entomophagous species to compat both medfly and the oriental fruit fly. Three parasitoids, Biosteres longicaudatus (Ashmead), B. vandenboschi (Fullaway), and B. oophilus (Fullaway) became widespread and abundant (Bess et al. 1961). During 1966-1968, parasitization of the medfly and the oriental fruit fly was high (ca. 70%); it was mainly due to the egg-pupal parasitoid, B. oophilus (Haramoto & Bess 1970). During 1978-1981, Biosteres oophilus was still the predominant parasitoid as it accounted for ca. 80% of the total parasitization. Occasionally the larval-pupal parasitoids, Biosteres longicaudatus and B. tryoni (Cameron) achieved a parasitization of 32 and 8%, respectively (Wong et al. 1984). Extensive fruit collections done between 1949-1985 showed that Jerusalem cherry, coffee and peach were among the most important hosts of the medfly. These fruits yielded more than 100 larvae/Kg of infested fruits (Liquido et al. 1990; Nishida et al. 1985). The fruits that yielded a high number of medfly larvae were elliptical to spherical and yellowish to reddish. They had a diameter of 1-7 cm and a weight of 1-30 grams. Most of these hosts belonged to five plant families: Myrtaceae, Rutaceae, Rosaceae, Sapotaceae and Solanaceae (Liquido et al. 1990).

          In Costa Rica a classical biological control program was initiated in 1955. During 1979-1980 parasitoids were collected from <10% of C. capitata populations. These were two introduced braconids, B. longicaudatus and B. oophilus, and two indigenous cynipids, Ganaspis carvalhoi (Dettmer) and Odontosema anastrephae (Borgmeier) (Wharton et al. 1981). An exploration for medfly parasitoids conducted in West-Central Africa during 1980-1982 showed that C. capitata occurred in low frequency in coffee plantations in Cameroon. Parasitization of tephritids in coffee by braconids ranged from 10-56% (Steck et al. 1986). In Guatemala infestation of C. capitata was serious in coffee and tangerine. The rest of the fruits were mainly infested by Anastrepha spp. (Eskafi 1988, 1990). Parasitization rate of C. capitata and Anastrepha spp. was low, ranging from 0.04 to 7.95%. The most common parasitoids recovered from both flies were B. longicaudatus and Doryctobracon crawfordi (Viereck) (Eskafi 1990).

          The behavior of the ectoparasitoid Muscidifurax raptor (Girault & Sanders) in searching for the potential host C. capitata pupae was analyzed under laboratory conditions. The searching efficiency of M. raptor females decreased with increasing density. The proportion of avoidance of superparasitism was 0.615. The response to a high parasitoid density was to increase the proportion of males in the progeny, as males searching for mates interfered and decreased the searching activity of the females (Podoler & Menzel 1977, 1979). The medfly was susceptible to the Mexican strain of the nematode Steinernema feltiae. Emerging adults and pupae were not susceptible to the nematode, but the third instars (prior to pupating in the soil) suffered high mortalities (50-90%) when exposed to high nematode concentrations (150,000 - 500,000 nematodes/cup) (Lindegren & Vail 1986). Field exposure of mature larvae to a dose of 500 nematodes/cm2 yielded high mortality of C. capitata (Lindegren et al. 1990). In addition to the hymenopterous parasitoids and insect pathogenic nematodes, arthropod predators such as ants could play an important role in reducing fruit fly populations. Under laboratory conditions, the argentine ant, Iridomyrmex humilis (Mayr) caused 50% mortality of medfly pupae after a 10 min. attack. However, ant predation could be important only in localized areas; it is not adequate to regulate medfly populations (Wong et al. 1984).

          Typically, the most effective natural enemies of an insect occur in regions where the pest evolved. The natural range of Mediterranean fruit fly is the sub-Saharan central African region, including the Island of Madagascar. Although no information is available from Madagascar, a number of promising natural enemies have been discovered in Central Africa (Bianchi & Krauss 1936, 1937; Gilstrap & Hart 1987, Greathead 1976, Silvestri 1914, Steck et al. 1986, van Zwaluwenburg 1936, 1937, Wharton, 1989, Wharton & Gilstrap 1983). However, because of technological difficulties associated with transportation and culture, only two species attacking Ceratitis capitata have been successfully translocated out of central Africa. A concentrated effort to locate natural enemies there might yield the kind of species capable of regulating this pest at low densities, as it has been known to be rare in that general region since the early 1900's (Silvestri 1913). We believe that parasitic Hymenoptera are the most effective natural enemies of Mediterranean fruit flies. At least six species of fruit flies in the genus Ceratitis are known from central Africa, and numerous parasitic Hymenoptera have been reported active on them at very low host densities (Table 1, Silvestri 1913, Clausen 1978, F. Gilstrap, pers. comm.). Entomologists in California have not tested these because the Mediterranean fruit fly has been quarantined. Therefore, promising species of natural enemies for Medfly might be found among these related species. Also, there has been no concentrated effort to locate disease organisms, such as viruses, bacteria and fungi, which might prove invaluable in eradication campaigns. 

          Mexican fruit fly.--Some of the natural enemies of oriental and Mediterranean fruit flies have shown activity on Anastrepha spp. in southern Mexico, and may be influential in partial biological control of that species (Aluja et al. 1990). However, there have been no formal attempts to obtain natural enemies from other areas where different species of Anastrepha occur, such as South America.

          Two species of parasitic insects are already proven and available as biotic insecticides (augmentive releases) against Medfly. These are Diachasmimorpha longicaudata and D. tryoni, which have been used with some success in Mexico and Hawaii (USDA 1988, Wong et al. 1990a,b). The use of these parasites in lieu of malathion during the establishment phase of specific natural enemies from central Africa, would greatly aid their survival and while providing some economic control of Medfly. 

          Table 1. Known parasitic species attacking fruitflies of the genus Ceratitis in their natural range in Central Africa.



                        Parasite species                                 Host stage attacked



Biosteres caudatus Szepligeti

Diachasma fullawayi Silvestri

Diachasmimorpha longicaudata (Ashmead)

Diachasmimorpha tryoni (Cameron)

Dirhinus ehrhorni Silvestri

Dirhinus giffardii Silvestri

Ganaspis sp.

Halticoptera sp.

Hedylus giffardii Silvestri

Hedylus sp.

Galesus silvestrii Kieffer

Microbracon celer (Szepligeti)

Opius humilis Silvestri

Opius inconsuetus Silvestri

Opius perproximus Silvestri

Opius n. sp.

Spalangia afra Silvestri  

Tetrastichus dacicida Silvestri

Tetrastichus giffardii Silvestri

Tetrastichus oxyurus Silvestri

Tetrastichus n. sp.




























          Misc. Fruitflies.--Several species of Rhagoletis are very important pests of cultivated cherries in North America and Europe, with some species having been considered as subjects for biological control, despite the low economic threshold. Infestation rates of less than 0.2% are currently required for commercial marketing of cherries in the United States. Four species of parasitoids associated with the Oriental fruit fly, Dacus dorsalis Hendel, were introduced against such fruit flies. These included Opius longicaudatus compensans (Silv.), Opius longicaudatus farmosanus (Full.), Opius oophilus Full., and Opius longicaudatus novacaledonicus Full. These parasitoids were introduced from Hawaii and released against Rhagoletis indifferens Cueran and Rhagoletis fausta Osten Sak in Oregon and Washington in the 1950's (Clausen 1956b). However, none became established probably because they all originated in tropical regions. A parasitoid of R. cerasi, the European cherry fruit fly, was imported against the eastern cherry fruit fly, R. cingulata Loew during 1959-64 in New Jersey, without successful establishment. Other species including Biosteres sublaevis Wharton, Coptera occidentalis and Phygadeuon wiesmanni are under investigation in California and Oregon (Croft & AliNiazee 1996, Legner & Goeden  (1987).).


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