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