SU-EE PA 23-01
Establishing a barcoding database of local pests of deciduous fruit
Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology, Stellenbosch University
This project aims to develop new knowledge regarding South African pests and to have an accurate, repeatable and rapid identification method for such pests to ensure market access and good management.
Morphological identifications of insects can be problematic when dealing with immature stages or species complexes such as the case with the banded fruit weevil complex and fruit flies (Ceratitis rosa and Ceratitis quilicii). Immature insects (e.g. fruit-fly larvae) need to be reared first since morphological identifications can only be made with adult insects. With validated sequencing, where pest insects are identified by taxonomists and sequenced molecularly, it will be possible to establish a reference database for South African pest insects, especially those that are local and barcoding sequences are not available.
South Africa is experiencing a shortage of taxonomists for various insect groups, which means in future there will be no experts available for morphological insect identifications, as there appear to be very few people being trained to take over. Accurate insect identifications have a huge impact on the management of pests, specifically those of quarantine significance since incorrect identifications lead to loss of access and financial implications for growers. Many insect pests, such as False codling moth, Thaumatotibia leucotreta, and banded fruit weevil, Phlyctinus callosus, are endemic to South Africa. Therefore, the occurrence of these, and other insects, can cause major phytosanitary issues and economic damage. Insect groups that are not studied as intensively, such as leafhoppers and thrips, often are problematic in terms of their taxonomic status.
This project aims to alleviate these problems by supplementing existing sequences of well-known pests, with those for which no sequences are available in South Africa. This will allow for easier identifications by people not trained as Entomologists. It is critical, however, to establish a good morphological base on which to make these sequences available.