In September this year FABI imported a potential new biological control agent of the Eucalyptus snout beetle, Gonipterus sp. n. 2, currently the most serious insect pest of eucalypts in the country.
The potential biocontrol agent is a tachinid fly, Anagonia cf. lasiophthalma, which parasitizes the larval stage of the beetle. The flies were imported from RAIZ in Portugal, who have been studying this insect in quarantine for its potential use on a different Gonipterus species, G. platensis, a serious pest in parts of Europe and South America.
The parasitoids were imported into the FABI quarantine facility at the University of Pretoria’s Innovation Africa @UP campus. Initially it was not known whether Anagonia cf. lasiophthalma would parasitize Gonipterus sp. n. 2, the species present in South Africa, and whether it would be possible to rear the fly parasitoid in quarantine. However, work led by technical assistant Amy Collop, and supported by Samantha Bush, Dr Michelle Schröder and Prof. Brett Hurley, has confirmed that Gonipterus sp. n. 2 is a host of this parasitoid and the initial stages of a lab-reared population of the flies has been established.
This is very exciting news, as it confirms the possibility to use this parasitic fly as a biological control agent for this serious pest.
Much work is still needed, and the current focus is to test non-target species to assess the safety or releasing this parasitoid into the field.