Mass breeding of predator butterfly possible
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Last Updated: Monday, September 06, 2010, 13:47
Bangalore: In a relief for cultivators troubled by mealybug pests, a city university has done breakthrough research enabling mass breeding of a 'predator'butterfly to help destroy the plant sucking bugs that destroy economically important crops.

"Indian cultivators for years have been battling the threat by six species of mealybugs, which reproduce rapidly and feed on crops like coffee, cocoa, grapes, fig guava, mango, sugarcane, mulberry, vegetable crops and several ornamental plants, causing huge crop loss," Dr M G Venkatesha, Department of Zoology, Bangalore University, said.

Mealybugs attack flower and fruits of crops. A single mealybug lays 500-100 eggs and has a 30 day life cycle. The menace is estimated to cause a loss of USD 750 million in US and several millions in India, he said.

Pesticides were not effective as their bodies have a kind of wax-coated finish which did not allow it to settle on them. The only method used so far to control mealybugs was deployment of biological control agents like predatory ladybird beetles and wasp parasites,which had to be imported.

However, under a UGC-sponsored research project, a major breakthrough was achieved by successfully breeding a predator butterfly found in India, under laboratory conditions, paving the way for mass breeding and deployment on mealybug infested fields, he said.

The butterfly, also known as ape fly, as its pupa resembles a monkey's face, has for years been found in India. But efforts by many universities and horticultural universities in the last three decades to grow them under laboratory conditions for mass breeding had not yielded results.

"These butterflies do not mate in captivity, raising a huge challenge in terms of mass breeding them for use as biological control agents against mealybugs", he said.

However, a research scholar in the department has generated conducive conditions, making it possible to get the predator butterfly mate in captivity, a major breakthrough, he said.


First Published: Monday, September 06, 2010, 13:47

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