Cross-correlation analysis of invasive mango mealybug and its associated natural enemies in relation to meteorological factors: implications for biological control

Damage caused by invasive downey snow line mealybug, Rastrococcus iceryoides Green (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) has been reported to vary between 30% to complete crop loss where no control measure is applied. The current studies seek to determine factors influencing R. iceryoides population outbreaks, parasitoid – host and predator–prey relationships as well as predict optimal management strategies through weather modelling over a period of 28 months from 2008 to 2010 in Tanzania. The highest incidence of R. iceryoides was recorded during the dry season coinciding with the major mango fruiting season. The relationship between R. iceryoides and the parasitoid was positive but not significant, which implies the influence on outbreaks was negligible probably due to low percent parasitism (<12%). However, the predator abundance was directly and significantly related to that of R. iceryoides. Average temperature, average relative humidity, rainfall, and R. iceryoides abundance were autocorrelated to each other. Cross-correlation coefficients vary significantly from −0.286 to 0.589 for the pair-variable between R. iceryoides, temperature, relative humidity, rainfall, parasitism and predators. Our findings showed that temperature was the key climatic variable that significantly influenced R. iceryoides outbreaks while rainfall was significantly negatively associated with the pest. Time series analyses show R. iceryoides population increased 4 months after an increase in average temperature in all the sites, 11 months after rainfall and 11 months after relative humidity in Kibaha and Dar es Salaam, respectively. Our findings revealed that R. iceryoides is an excellent target for classical biological control. Thus, the importation of promising co-evolved parasitoid specific to R. iceryoides from the aboriginal home is crucial in formulating an efficient and sustainable management approaches against the invasive mealybug pest in mango agro-ecosystems.