The seasonal abundance of blowflies infesting drying fish in south-west India.

Published online
22 Aug 2001
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Wall, R. & Howard, J. J. & Bindu, J.

Publication language
India & Kerala


Blowfly infestation of sun-drying fish is a major economic problem in many developing countries of Asia, Africa and the Pacific. To consider the ecology of infestation, adult and larval blowfly populations were monitored between 27 October 1997 and 27 April 1999 at a fish landing and drying site, approximately 5 km north of Calicut, in Kerala state on the coast of south-west India. During the 548-day sampling period, a total of 96 953 adult Diptera was collected from 16 sticky targets, placed inside and outside eight fish-storage sheds. Of these, 91 912 (95%) were Chrysomya megacephala, 3719 (4%) were other Calliphoridae and 1322 (1%) were other species, largely Sarcophagidae. The population of C. megacephala showed pronounced seasonal fluctuations in response to climate, particularly relative humidity. Significantly shorter-frequency fluctuations within fish-processing sheds were also evident, the periodicity of which corresponded approximately to C. megacephala generation cycles. Spatial variation in C. megacephala abundance was evident within the site, higher populations occurring closest to the beach and numbers declining with distance inland. The pattern of drying fish infestation by C. megacephala broadly followed changes in the density of adult flies and the seasonal change in weather, with peaks during the monsoon and troughs in the dry hot periods. High relative humidity played a significant but secondary role in increasing infestation. Quantification of the relationship between larval infestation and percentage fish loss suggests that, given the infestation levels observed, between 10 and 60% post-harvest wet weight losses would be expected in the monsoon period, depending on the species of fish landed. The study emphasizes the importance of developing a clear understanding of the basic ecology and spatial and temporal dynamics of an insect pest, prior to the design or implementation of any pest management programme.

Key words