FABIans Luki-Marie Scheepers, Elmarie van der Merwe and Josias Letaoana set out to collect pupae of the wattle bagworm (Lepidoptera: Psychidae) and larvae of the pine emperor moth (Lepidoptera: Saturniidae) near Greytown. These South African indigenous insects are sporadic plantation pests of black wattle and pine respectively.

Roughly 1,000 bagworms were collected from black wattle plantations and more than 400 last-instar pine emperor moth larvae were collected. Surprisingly, larvae of the pine emperor moth were not collected from Pinus plantations as one would expect, but from young Eucalyptus GN hybrids surrounded by Pinus patula plantations. Although larvae of this moth have been previously reported feeding on Eucalyptus foliage, the occurrence of late instar larvae on Eucalyptus trees was unusual. The population and damage caused by the pine emperor moth in this area, especially on Eucalyptus, needs to be monitored.

The insects collected on this trip will be used for research to develop tools for integrated pest management. Luki-Marie Scheepers, a PhD candidate in FABI is investigating the use of pheromones to attract these moth species, and thus towards using chemical ecology for the monitoring and control of these insects.  Innocent Rakubu (MSc) is investigating the use of entomopathogenic nematodes (EPNs) as biological control agents against pupae of the pine emperor moth, as well as pupae of other forest insect pest species.

A big thank you to Mr. Ian Hill (Hill Forestry), and Prof. Jolanda Roux and Mr. Rendani Lethole (SAPPI) for their assistance with the collections.