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Natural biological control of the pine processionary moth Thaumetopoea pityocampa (Den. & Schiff.) by the Argentine ant Linepithema humile (Mayr) in Portugal

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1 Defoliation by larvae of the pine processionary moth, Thaumetopoea pityocampa, is negligible in stands of Pinus pinaster colonized by the Argentine ant Linepithema humile which preys fiercely on the young moth larvae. In contrast, such damage is widespread where pine plantations are colonized by native ants, predominantly Tapinoma nigerrimum and Lasius niger, which seemingly disregard the larvae.

2 Where L. humile- and native ant-occupied sectors adjoin, there is a 20–50 m overlap in the transition area between L. humile- and native ant-occupied pines. This was most evident in a > 500 ha plantation where there was severe or very severe T. pityocampa attack in native ant sectors contrasting with none in adjoining L. humile sectors.

3 Predation by L. humile is no doubt enhanced by its existence as super-colonies over very large areas, by its foraging activity and recruitment on trees throughout the time when T. pityocampa and other prey are present, and by honeydew- producing Homoptera which help retain foraging L. humile workers in pine tree crowns.

4 The role of L. humile could be enhanced by cultivations that disturb the soil and restrain ground vegetation.

Keywords: Biological control; Linepithema humile; Pinus pinaster; Portugal; Thaumetopoea pityocampa; predation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, Silwood Park, Ascot, Berks SL5 7PY, U.K. and 2: Universidade Nova de Lisboa, FCT, P-2825 Monte de Caparica, Portugal

Publication date: 1999-02-01

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