Bulletin of Entomological Research

Research Paper

Hybridization between Dactylopius tomentosus (Hemiptera: Dactylopiidae) biotypes and its effects on host specificity

C.W. Mathengea1a2a3, P. Holforda3 c1, J.H. Hoffmanna1, H.G. Zimmermanna2, R.N. Spooner-Harta3 and G.A.C. Beattiea3

a1 Zoology Department, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3, Rondebosch 7701, Cape Town, South Africa

a2 Plant Protection Research Institute, Agricultural Research Council, Private Bag X134, Pretoria 0001, South Africa

a3 Centre for Plants and the Environment, University of Western Sydney (Hawkesbury Campus), Locked Bag 1797, Penrith South DC, NSW 1797, Australia


Dactylopius tomentosus is composed of biotypes adapted to different Cylindropuntia species. One biotype is an important biological control agent of C. imbricata in South Africa while another has the potential for the control of C. fulgida var. fulgida. These two weed species occur in sympatry in some areas of South Africa, so the introduction of the second biotype could result in hybridization, which, in turn, could impact on the biological control programs through altered host specificity and fitness of the hybrids. To anticipate what might happen, reciprocal crosses were made between the two biotypes, and the biological performance of the resultant hybrids was compared with that of each parental lineage on C. imbricata and C. f. var. fulgida. The biotypes interbred freely and reciprocally in the laboratory. Comparisons of crawler and adult female traits showed differences in performance that were dependent on the origin of the maternal and paternal genomes. However, when all traits were combined into a ‘fitness index’, both hybrids clearly outperformed the parental lineages. The increase in fitness shown by the hybrids over their maternal lineage was greater on the alternative host of the maternal parent than on the natural host of the maternal parent. Therefore, in areas where the two cacti occur in sympatry, hybridization between the biotypes is not expected to be detrimental to the biological control of either weed.

(Accepted July 30 2009)

(Online publication January 15 2010)


c1 Author for correspondence Fax: +61 2 4570 1314 E-mail: p.holford@uws.edu.au