a1 Citrus & Subtropical Fruit Research Institute Nelspruit, South Africa.
On guava trees at Nelspruit, South Africa, there was a mutualism between the ant Anoplolepis custodiens (F. Sm.) and the mealybug Planococcus citri (Risso), which raised the population levels of both. When ants were excluded from half the trees, their overall population level also dropped by half. Further, they moved their nests to be as near as possible to their main food source, the honeydew of the mealybugs. When deprived of their ant mutualists, the mealybugs were heavily preyed on by coccinellids such as the ant–intolerant Exochomus flavipes (Thnb.) and the ant–tolerant Scymnus spp. Later, the mealybugs were almost totally eliminated by the primary entomogenous fungus Cladosporium sp. near C. oxysporum. The coccinellids, now without food, were forced to abandon the trees. In contrast, in trees where ants were allowed to continue their normal activity, the epizootic among the mealybugs was delayed by 14 days. This limitation by the ants of disease allowed a basal but fragmented mealybug population to survive. As the mealybugs declined, the ants switched to attending the aphid Aphis gossypii Glov. Fifteen days after the epizootic struck the ant–attended mealybug population, it began to devastate the aphid population. With both mealybugs and aphids at a low level, the ant population declined. However, the ant–homopteran mutualisms, although severely hit by the epizootic, nevertheless remained intact.
(Received October 18 1982)
p1 Present address: Outspan Citrus Center South African Co-operative Citrus Exchange P.O.Box 28 Nelspruit 1200 South Africa.