Identifying Ant-Mirid Spatial Interactions to Improve Biological Control in Cacao-Based Agroforestry System
Environmental Entomology, 47 (3): p. 551-558
The use of ants for biological control of insect pests was the first reported case of conservation biological control. Direct and indirect community interactions between ants and pests lead to differential spatial pattern.We investigated spatial interactions between mirids, the major cocoa pest in West Africa and numerically dominant ant species, using bivariate point pattern analysis to identify potential biological control agents. We assume that potential biological control agents should display negative spatial interactions with mirids considering their niche overlap.The mirid/ ant data were collected in complex cacao-based agroforestry systems sampled in three agroecological areas over a forest-savannah gradient in Cameroon.Three species, Crematogaster striatula Emery (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), Crematogaster clariventris Mayr (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), and Oecophylla longinoda Latreille (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) with high predator and aggressive behaviors were identified as dominant and showed negative spatial relationships with mirids.The weaver ant, O. longinoda was identified as the only potential biological control agent, considering its ubiquity in the plots, the similarity in niche requirements, and the spatial segregation with mirids resulting probably from exclusion mechanisms. Combining bivariate point pattern analysis to good knowledge of insect ecology was an effective method to identify a potentially good biological control agent.