Prospective evaluation of the biological control of vine mealybug: refuge effects and climate.

Published online
23 Apr 2008
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Gutierrez, A. P. & Daane, K. M. & Ponti, L. & Walton, V. M. & Ellis, C. K.

Publication language
USA & California


Vine mealybug Planococcus ficus is an invasive pest of vineyards in many areas of the world. In California, USA, it infests all plant subunits and has a spatial refuge from natural enemies under the bark and on roots. A temporal refuge is created when ants tending the mealybug reduce the efficacy of natural enemies. Biological control of vine mealybug is only partially successful and varies among California grape-growing regions. To improve control and help determine appropriate natural enemies for importation, the effects of weather on mealybug regulation by two parasitoids, Anagyrus pseudococci and Leptomastidea abnormis, and a coccinellid predator, Cryptolaemus montrouzieri, were examined across the ecological regions of California. Weather-driven, physiologically based age-mass structured demographic models of the mealybug and its natural enemies were parameterized using laboratory data and field observations. Temperature was used to define the thermal limits and development rates of each species, and resource supply/demand ratios were used to scale daily per capita growth, fecundity and survivorship rates from maximal values at optimal conditions. The population dynamics of the mealybug and its natural enemies were simulated at 108 locations in California over a 10-year period using observed weather. The simulation data were mapped using a geographical information system (GIS) and analysed using linear multiple regression and marginal analysis. The models predictions indicated that: (i) the parasitoid A. pseudococci has a larger impact on vine mealybug than either L. abnormis or C. montrouzieri; (ii) mealybug densities will be lowest in the hot desert regions of southern California and highest in the cooler areas of northern California; (iii) mealybug density increases with season length and the size of the combined spatial-temporal refuge; (iv) biological control of mealybug could be achieved by reducing the size of the spatial-temporal refuge. Synthesis and applications. Models, no matter how detailed, will always be incomplete; despite this, the complexity of tri-trophic systems can be modelled and the effects of biotic factors and of weather separated. The predictions of our model coincided well with field observations on vine mealybug, and clearly showed why the biological control will require additional species of natural enemies and/or why the size of the spatial and temporal refuges must be reduced.

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