, Volume 97, Issue 3, pp 291-298

Molecular diagnosis of a previously unreported predator–prey association in coffee: Karnyothrips flavipes Jones (Thysanoptera: Phlaeothripidae) predation on the coffee berry borer

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Abstract

The coffee berry borer, Hypothenemus hampei, is the most important pest of coffee throughout the world, causing losses estimated at US $500 million/year. The thrips Karnyothrips flavipes was observed for the first time feeding on immature stages of H. hampei in April 2008 from samples collected in the Kisii area of Western Kenya. Since the trophic interactions between H. hampei and K. flavipes are carried out entirely within the coffee berry, and because thrips feed by liquid ingestion, we used molecular gut-content analysis to confirm the potential role of K. flavipes as a predator of H. hampei in an organic coffee production system. Species-specific COI primers designed for H. hampei were shown to have a high degree of specificity for H. hampei DNA and did not produce any PCR product from DNA templates of the other insects associated with the coffee agroecosystems. In total, 3,327 K. flavipes emerged from 17,792 H. hampei-infested berries collected from the field between April and September 2008. Throughout the season, 8.3% of K. flavipes tested positive for H. hampei DNA, although at times this figure approached 50%. Prey availability was significantly correlated with prey consumption, thus indicating the potential impact on H. hampei populations.

J. Jaramillo and E.G. Chapman contributed equally to the experimental work in this paper and should be considered joint first authors.