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Increased and sex-selective avian predation of desert locusts Schistocerca gregaria treated with Metarhizium acridum

Increased and sex-selective avian predation of desert locusts Schistocerca gregaria treated with Metarhizium acridum

Mullié, Wim C., Cheke, Robert A. ORCID: 0000-0002-7437-1934, Young, Stephen, Ibrahim, Abdou Baoua and Murk, Albertinka J. (2021) Increased and sex-selective avian predation of desert locusts Schistocerca gregaria treated with Metarhizium acridum. PLoS ONE, 16 (1):e0244733. pp. 1-14. ISSN 1932-6203 (Online) (doi:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0244733)

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Abstract

The entomopathogenic fungus Metarhizium acridum in oil-based formulations (Green Muscle® (GM)) is a biopesticide for locust control lacking side-effects on biodiversity, unlike chemical insecticides. Under controlled conditions, GM-treated locusts and grasshoppers attract predators, a complementary advantage in locust control. We assessed avian predation on a population of desert locusts in northern Niger aerially sprayed operationally with GM with 107 g viable conidia ha-1. Populations of adult locusts and birds and vegetation greenness were assessed simultaneously along two transects from 12 days before until 23 days after treatment. Common kestrels Falco tinnunculus and lanners F. biarmicus were the predominant avian predators. Regurgitated pellets and prey remains were collected daily beneath “plucking posts” of kestrels. Locusts started dying five days post-spray and GM had its maximum effect one-two weeks after the spray, with 80% efficacy at day 21. After spraying, bird numbers increased significantly (P<0.05) concurrent with decreasing desert locust densities. Locust numbers decreased significantly (P<0.001) with both time since spraying and decreasing greenness. Before spraying, kestrel food remains under plucking posts accounted for 34.3 ±13.4 prey items day-1, of which 31.0 ±11.9 were adult desert locusts (90.3%), reducing post-spray to 21.1 ±7.3 prey items day-1, of which19.5 ±6.7 were adult desert locusts (92.5%), attributable to decreased use of the plucking-posts by the kestrels rather than an effect of the spray. After spraying, kestrels took significantly (P<0.05) more larger female (75–80%) than smaller male (20–25%) locusts. Avian predation probably enhanced the impact of the GM on the desert locust population, especially by removing large adult females. No direct or indirect adverse side-effects were observed on non-target organisms including locust predators such as ants and birds. These substantial ecological advantages should also be considered when choosing between conventional chemical and biopesticide-based locust control.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2021 Mullié et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Desert Locust; Biocontrol; Metarhizium acridum; avian predation
Subjects: S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
Faculty / Department / Research Group: Faculty of Engineering & Science
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute > Agriculture, Health & Environment Department
Last Modified: 09 Jan 2021 23:15
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
Selected for GREAT 2019: None
Selected for REF2021: None
URI: http://gala.gre.ac.uk/id/eprint/30845

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