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Orius laevigatus (Insecta; Heteroptera) local strain, a promising agent in biological control of Frankliniella occidentalis (Insecta; Thysanoptra) in protected pepper crops in Tunisia

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Frankliniella occidentalis Pergande (1895) (Thysanoptera; Thripidae) is the most common worldwide western flower thrips. It has a cosmopolitan distribution and a wide host-plant range. The management of F. occidentalis has always been based on chemical and biological methods. However, within the integrated pest management (IPM) concept, beneficial local insects are worth investigating within a biological control approach. This work aims to evaluate and enhance the efficiency of the local thrips predator strains Orius laevigatus (Heteroptera; Anthocoridae) to control F. occidentalis. The study focused on the most convenient dose and release rate of O. laevigatus against F. occidentalis. The minute pirate bugs O. laevigatus were collected on flowers of Chrysanthemum coronarium Linneaus (Asterales; Asteraceae) growing in an uncultivated field in the region of Chott-Mariem (Sousse, Tunisia). Two doses and three predator release frequencies were tested in nine pepper crop greenhouses already infected by F. occidentalis. Preliminary results showed that the O. laevigatus local strain had been successfully installed in all pepper crop greenhouses regardless of doses and release frequencies. Moreover, when released two or three times with a time laps of 1 week at a dose of 1 individual per m2, this predator was able to control thrips populations. In fact, a decrease of F. occidentalis populations was reported 1 week after the first release and very low levels were maintained below the economic threshold. In addition, it turned out that, when employed three times at a dose of 0.5 individual per m2 or just once with a dose of 1 individual per m2, the predatory bug produced a late impact on thrips populations. These results demonstrated the effectiveness of this predatory bug to control F. occidentalis populations and that it may be used as an alternative way to substitute the use of chemical pesticides.

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The authors would like to thank the staff and directors of the Agricultural Support Station of Nebhana in the region of Monastir who kindly accepted to conduct the study in their greenhouses.

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Correspondence to Mohamed Elimem.

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Elimem, M., Harbi, A., Limem-Sellemi, E. et al. Orius laevigatus (Insecta; Heteroptera) local strain, a promising agent in biological control of Frankliniella occidentalis (Insecta; Thysanoptra) in protected pepper crops in Tunisia. Euro-Mediterr J Environ Integr 3, 5 (2018).

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