Main content area

A Study of Cactoblastis cactorum (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) in its Native Range: Further Insights into Life Cycle, Larval Identification, Developmental Parameters, Natural Enemies, and Damage to the Host Plant Opuntia ficus-indica (Caryophyllales: Cactaceae)

Folgarait, Patricia J., Montenegro, Gloria Albioni, Plowes, Robert M., Gilbert, Lawrence
TheFlorida entomologist 2018 v.101 no.4 pp. 559-572
Alternaria, Apanteles, Cactoblastis cactorum, Opuntia ficus-indica, biological control agents, eggs, fungi, host plants, instars, invasive species, larvae, moths, natural enemies, parasitism, parasitoids, phenology, plant density, plantations, pupae, rearing, winter, Argentina, Florida, Mexico
Cactoblastis cactorum Berg (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) has been extensively studied since its initial use as a biological control agent for invasive populations of Opuntia Mill. The moth is native to several South American countries including Argentina where the exotic Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill. (Cactaceae) is grown as a commercial crop. Recently C. cactorum has attracted considerable attention following its non-intentional establishment in Florida, because it now threatens the highly diverse and economically important Opuntia taxa of the southern USA and Mexico. To elucidate several aspects of this system, we recorded phenological data and parasitoid activity from Argentina across an annual cycle. We reared several generations of moths to better document the life cycle, described several formerly unpublished larval stages and morphological characters, and compared developmental parameters from samples collected from different sites. We found that C. cactorum has 3 overlapping generations across a 9 mo growth period with winter quiescence at the larval VI instar or pupal stage. The most common natural enemy of larvae was the parasitoid Apanteles opuntiarum (Martínez and Berta) (Hymenoptera: Braconidae). Information is given on its development and percentages of parasitism throughout the year. No egg parasitoids were found in field-collected eggsticks or on experimental eggsticks. There were no significant differences between developmental stages and times of C. cactorum from Tucumán and Córdoba in Argentina. We found intermediate C. cactorum damage on low-density cultivated Opuntia, but much lower damage in commercial plantations with high densities of plants. Surprisingly, we found that a “black spot” fungal infection (Alternaria Nees) (Pleosporaceae) produced a higher level of damage in commercial plantations in Córdoba, as well as in natural settings in Tucumán