Cotesia flavipes (Cameron) (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) is used as a classical biological control agent against Chilo partellus (Swinhoe) (Lepidoptera: Crambidae), a serious exotic pest of cereal crops in eastern and southern Africa. This parasitoid has been introduced into several African countries for the control of C. partellus in maize, Zea mays L., and sorghum, Sorghum bicolor (L.), but it has never been released in Ethiopia. It is hypothesized that it spread into Ethiopia from populations released in Kenya and Somalia to become the predominant parasitoid of C. partellus in maize and sorghum fields of the country. In recent surveys conducted in Ethiopia, C. flavipes was recovered from C. partellus in sugarcane, Saccharum L. spp. hybrids, at a site >2,000 km from the nearest known release sites in Kenya and Somalia. These findings question published hypotheses that estimate the dispersal rate of C. flavipes to be 60 km per year in Africa, and they suggest that since its release in Africa this parasitoid has developed strains adapted to searching particular host plants infested by particular stem borers. The anomalies between our results and previous reports evoked the hypothesis that C. flavipes in Ethiopian sugarcane might be a different strain. To test this hypothesis, we compared partial COI gene sequences of C. flavipes collected from sugarcane in Ethiopia and those of specimens from other African countries to determine the origin of the Ethiopian population. In addition, COI sequences were obtained for C. flavipes from other continents. The C. flavipes population established in Ethiopian sugarcane is most closely related to the populations released against C. partellus in maize in other parts of Africa, which were derived from the original population imported from Pakistan. The dispersal rate of the parasitoid was estimated to be >200 km per year.
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Vol. 101 • No. 3