The potato tuberworm, Phthorimaea operculella (Zeller), is a major pest of potatoes in fields and traditional storage. A common method of nonrefrigerated storage is to pile potatoes in straw-covered heaps in the field. Tubers may be stored up to 3–4 mo in this manner, until the next harvest. We studied the dynamics of potato tuber moth infestation associated with such field storage in a 12-wk experiment in Israel. We set up six potato heaps, and sampled them for potato tuber moth at different locations at weekly intervals. Potato tuber moth infestation was significantly higher at the perimeter of the heaps than at their center, but it did not differ between bottom, mid-height, and top of the heaps. The proportion of potato tuber moth-infested potato tubers increased from 10 to 65% over the course of the experiment, and the mean number of potato tuber moth larvae per tuber increased from 0.25 to 2.50. Potato tuberworm populations increased sharply after 3, 6, and 9 wk of study, possibly corresponding to successive generations that developed within the heaps. This interpretation is supported by calculations of potato tuberworm generation length based on temperature data. Catches in pheromone traps that were placed near the heaps were not correlated (spatially and temporally) with potato tuberworm densities within heaps, hinting that migration among heaps did not considerably affect within-heap population dynamics. Potato tuberworm levels were not correlated with ambient temperatures, perhaps because of the warm, humid, and constant microclimate within the heaps. We discuss the significance of our findings for control efforts of the potato tuberworm.
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Vol. 98 • No. 1