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Postdoctoral Fellow

Department

Zoology and Entomology
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Research Profiles

Background       I completed a BSc (Agriculture) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg. Thereafter I conducted research in collaboration with the South African Sugarcane Research Institute (SASRI), Mount Edgecombe, Durban on Scarabaeids as well as a potential biocontrol agent of the stalk borer, Eldana saccharina. My MSc focused on identifying Scarabaeid larvae, problematic in sugarcane, by using molecular techniques to link unidentified larvae to identified beetles. Subsequently a field key and electronic key, using Lucid 3.4 software, were developed to allow identification of larvae in sugarcane fields.


Current Research       My PhD is focussing on the Eulophid, Leptocybe invasa (Hymenoptera: Eulophidae). Leptocybe invasa, also known as the Eucalyptus gall wasp, causes serious damage to the young growing shoots of various Eucalyptus spp. grown in plantations. The pest is thought to have originated in Queensland, Australia, but it was described from Israel where it was first encountered in 2000. Since then it has spread rapidly in Africa and other parts of the world including South America, South East Asia and China and is now present on all continents where Eucalyptus is planted. In Africa, L. invasa moved southwards rapidly to appear in Ethiopia in 2002, Kenya and Tanzania in 2005 and Zimbabwe in 2007. Leptocybe invasa was first found in South Africa in August 2007 in a Eucalyptus stand in Pretoria. Populations have, however, now been identified hundreds of kilometers away from its original site of interception. To date L. invasa has been recorded from five localities in South Africa, namely Brits, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Tzaneen and Upington. It, therefore, seems to be well established and spreading fast. Leptocybe invasa affects Eucalyptus spp. by oviposition on the midribs, petioles and branches of trees. This results in gall formation and in severe cases tree growth is seriously stunted. Eucalyptus camaldulensis (and other members of the Exertaria section of the genus) appear to be the most susceptible, but there are a number of other species which are also affected. These include E. grandis x E. camaldulensis and pure E. grandis clones that are commonly planted in South Africa. Leptocybe invasa attacks trees of all ages, from nursery stock to mature trees, but the damage is most severe on younger plants. Currently, molecular genetic studies using mitochondrial DNA and nuclear DNA are being conducted to determine the diversity in South African and other introduced populations.

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Publication
Bush SJ, Dittrich-Schröder D, Neser S, Gevers C, Baffoe KO, Slippers B, Hurley BP. (2017) First record of Quadristichus mendeli, a parasitoid of Leptocybe invasa, in South Africa. Southern Forests 10.2989/20702620.2017.1318347
Bush SJ, Slippers B, Neser S, Harney M, Dittrich-Schröder G, Hurley BP. (2016) Six recently recorded Australian insects associated with Eucalyptus in South Africa. African Entomology 24(2):539-544. 10.4001/003.024.0539
Klein H, Hoffmann J H, Neser S, Dittrich-Schroder G. (2015) Evidence that Quadrastichodella nova (Hymenoptera: Eulophidae) is the only gall inducer among four hymenopteran species associated with seed capsules of Eucalyptus camaldulensis (Myrtaceae) in South Africa. African Entomology 23(1):207-223.
Dittrich-Schroder G, Harney M, Neser S, Joffe T, Bush S, Hurley BP, Wingfield MJ, Slippers B. (2014) Biology and host preference of Selitrichodes neseri: A potential biological control agent of the Eucalyptus gall wasp, Leptocybe invasa. Biological Control 78:33-41. 10.1016/j.biocontrol.2014.07.004 PDF
Dittrich-Schröder G, Wingfield MJ, Hurley BP, Slippers B. (2012) Diversity in Eucalyptus susceptibility to the gall-forming wasp Leptocybe invasa. Agricultural and Forest Entomology 14:419-427. 10.1111/j.1461-9563.2012.00583.x PDF
Dittrich-Schroder G, Wingfield MJ, Klein H, Slippers B. (2012) DNA extraction techniques for DNA barcoding of minute gall-inhabiting wasps. Molecular Ecology Resources 12:109-115.
Kelly J, La Salle J, Harney M, Dittrich-Schröder G, Hurley BP. (2012) Selitrichodes neseri n. sp., a new parasitoid of the eucalyptus gall wasp Leptocybe invasa Fisher & La Salle (Hymenoptera: Eulophidae: Tetrastichinae). Zootaxa 3333:50-57. PDF
Dittrich G, Conlong DE, Mitchell A. (2006) Genetic diversity of Sturmiopsis parasitica Curran (Diptera: Tachinidae). Annales de la Societe entomologique de France 42:325-329.