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Life-history traits of the edible stinkbug, Encosternum delegorguei (Hem., Tessaratomidae), a traditional food in southern Africa

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Little is known of the life history of the edible stinkbug, Encosternum delegorguei, although it is an important food for people living in north-eastern South Africa and southern Zimbabwe. The present study aimed to establish key elements influencing long-term sustainable harvesting. Outdoor insectaries of two sizes were constructed to observe: daily activity, utilization of plants, copulation, oviposition, eclosion and survival from May 2006 to February 2007. The rest of the annual life cycle was observed in the field in March and April 2007 and identified as univoltine. In autumn (May) E. delegorguei entered reproductive diapause and aggregated within the escarpment mist-belt where it survived the winter on vapour condensation without feeding. Monthly dissections showed that abdominal fat content was highest in June. In spring (September) E. delegorguei fed on sap of the trees Combretum imberbe, Combretum molle, Peltophorum africanum, to a lesser degree on Dodonaea viscosa and the grass Pennisetum clandestinum. Copulation occurred in October and November. An overall total of 1752 E. delegorguei eggs were laid by 103 females and incubation time averaged 18.7 ± 9.0 days (range 7–37) at outdoor temperature ranging from 11°C to 25°C. The mean number of eggs in 64 egg masses was 27.4 ± 13.9 (range of 2–56 eggs). Shade cloth (68.8%) was the most commonly used substrate for depositing eggs followed by P. clandestinum (12.5%), C. imberbe (7.8%), P. africanum (6.3%), D. viscosa (1.6%), C. molle (1.6%) and C. erythrophyllum (1.6%). The parasitoid wasp, Anastatus sp. (Hymenoptera: Eupelmidae) infected 57% of the eggs deposited by captive females. Availability of food plants in combination with parasitoid threat may be a reason for seasonal migration between overwintering sites within the mist-belt and summer oviposition sites. Diminishing harvests could be attributed to fuelwood harvesting of food plants in the summer sites.
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Keywords: Aggregation; beneficial insect; diapause; egg parasitoid; overwintering

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations:  Restoration and Conservation Biology Research Group, School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand,  Johannesburg, South Africa

Publication date: 2009-12-01

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