Open Access
How to translate text using browser tools
1 June 2013 Predation of Zaprinus indianus (Diptera: Drosophilidae) by the Social Wasp Synoeca cyanea (Hymenoptera: Vespidae)
Fábio Prezoto, Nayara Braga
Author Affiliations +

This study is the first record of predation of Zaprinus indianus (Gupta) (Drosophilidae) fig fly larvae—which has recently become a major pest in fruit production in Brazil—by the social wasp Synoeca cyanea (F.) (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) in fruits of Spanish prune (Spondias purpurea L. Anacadiaceae) in an agricultural property, at Piracicaba city, São Paulo State, Brazil.

Fruit fly species in several dipteran families are mainly responsible for the damage dealt to fruit in Brazil by insects (Fernandes & Elton 2011; Zart et al. 2011). The females of such dipteran families inflict direct damage to fruit by puncturing it with their ovipositors, and the larvae, which develop within the fruit, render it largely unmarketable. Also these actions result in premature fruit drop, and facilitate the entry of bacteria or fungi that cause rotting, which strongly devalues the fruit (Souza-Filho et al. 2003).

The control of these pests is difficult because of their prolific production of viable eggs, high capacity of dispersion of the adults and colonization in many different ecological conditions, and very importantly, because the immature stages develop within the fruits (Copeland et al. 2002; Raga et al. 2005).

The best known species in the genus Zaprionus (Drosophilidae), is the fig fly, Zaprionus Indianas (Gupta), a pest species, which is reported with increasing frequency in the Brazilian territory. The polyphagous Z. indianus species, which is believed to have originated from Africa, was first reported in Brazil in 1999, near Valinhos, São Paulo State, in a culture of figs. Subsequently, because this species multiplied very rapidly (Vilela 1999; Raga et al. 2003), it is now one of the principal economic pests in national fruit production.

In Brazil, the fly Z. indianus has already been observed to inflict damage to the following fruits: acerola (Malpighia glabra L., Malpighiaceae), banana (Musa sp. Musaceae), cashew (Anacardium occidentale L., Anacardiaceae), carombola (Averrhoa carambola L., Oxilidaceae), citrus (Citrus spp., Rutaceae), guava (Psidium guajava L., Myrtaceae), jaboticaba (Myrcia jaboticaba Baill., Myrtaceae), iamb (Syzygium jambos L. (Alston), Myrtaceae), mango (Mangiferaindica L., Anacardiaceae), strawberry (Fragaria sp., Rosaceae), peach (Prunus persica (L.) Stokes, Rosaceae), Spanish prune (Spondias purpurea L., Anacardiaceae) and tomato (Lycopersicum esculentum L., Solanaceae) (Raga 2002).

Social wasps visit a wide variety of fruits to obtain nutrients such as carbohydrates and animal protein derived from the capture of adult insects and/or immature insects that occur in fruits and that are used for feeding wasp larvae (Prezoto et al. 2008). In the Neotropics, several studies have described the predatory behavior of social wasps on different groups of insect pests in agroecosystems (Giannotti et al. 1995; Elisei et al. 2010), and in urban gardens (Andrade & Prezoto 2001; Prezoto et al. 2005; Prezoto et al. 2006). This study is the first record of predation of Z. indianus (Gupta) larvae by the social wasp Synoeca cyanea (F.), which suggests that natural enemy is potentially useful as a biocontrol agent for practical use in fruit protection Brazil.

During the month of Apr 2012, we registered the predatory behavior of the social wasp S. cyanea on larvae of Z. indianus in fruits of Spanish prune (S. purpurea) in an agricultural property at Piracicaba city (S 22° 43′ W 47° 38′), Sño Paulo State, Brazil. During 3 consecutive days, we conducted observations ad libitum (sensu Altmann, 1974) on the behavior of wasps S. cyanea foraging on ripe fruits of Spanish prune from 8 AM to 6 PM.

Synoeca cyanea initiated foraging behavior by landing on the fruits of Spanish prune antennating them, i.e., continually touching different points on the fruit surface with the antennae, possibly in search of chemical cues of prey (Fig. 1). We observed that S. cyanea workers always exhibited antennation of the fruit of Spanish prune, and this behavior was more prolonged when the fruit being inspected had holes in its skin (exocarp) created by other insects.

When the wasps detected the presence of Z. indianus larvae, they persistently malaxed the site, sometimes shifting to a new site, but always on the same fruit in their quest to capture the prey. Larvae of Z. indianus that were captured were 2–4 mm in length, and they were captured individually. When the larva was removed from the fruit, the wasp was seen to be malaxing it, transforming it into the form of an acorn, which the wasp transported to the colony.

The capture of Z. indianus larvae occurred throughout the day, being more intense in the hottest hours (1–3 PM), when we recorded 3 catches per hour. We did not register any other species of wasp foraging in Spanish prune.

The wasps of the genus Synoeca have colonies with hundreds of individuals and their nests can stay active for many years (Castellón 1980). Of the 4 species of this genus found in Brazil, S. cyanea is the most abundant, and easily located in different kinds of phyto-physiognomy (Elisei et al. 2005; Henrique-Simões et al. 2011). In a study on the foraging activity of S. cyanea, Elisei et al. (2005) reported that this species presents intense activity, with an average of 76 sorties and returns per h, and Elisei et al. (2010) verified that this wasp species is capable of carrying a load that corresponds to 10% of its body weight.

Fig. 1.

A social wasp, Synoeca cyanea (F.), apparently hunting larvae of Zaprinus indianus (Gupta) in fruits of Spanish prune (Spondias purpurea, Anacadiaceae).


Sometimes the interactions between social wasps and fruit are not harmonious. De Souza et al. (2010) reported that S. cyanea is capable of breaking the skin of jabuticaba fruits (Myrciaria sp.; Myrtales: Myrtaceae), which entails a loss, since the damaged fruit rots and loses its commercial value. In another study, Brugger et al. (2011) verified that the same wasp species also damages Psidium sp. fruits. In both cases, the authors believe that this action of wasps on fruits is the result of depletion of natural resources in their environment, which forces individuals to forage on alternative resources.

This intense foraging activity of S. cyanea associated with predation and its broad distribution throughout Brazil qualifies it as an interesting natural enemy of larvae of Z. indianus, and also as a prospective candidate for use in integrated pest management programs against dipteran pests of fruit crops.



J. Altmann 1974. Observational study of behavior: sampling methods. Behaviour 49(4): 227–267. Google Scholar


F. R. Andrade , and F. Prezoto 2001. Horários de atividade forrageadora e material coletado por Polistes ferreri Saussure, 1853 (Hymenoptera, Vespidae), nas diferentes fases de seu ciclo biológico. Rev. Brasileira Zoociências 3: 117–128. Google Scholar


B. P. Brugger , L. S. Araújo , A. R. De Souza , and F. Prezoto 20101 Social wasps (Synoeca cyanea) damaging Psidium sp. (Myrtaceae) fruits in Minas Gerais state, Brazil. Sociobiology 57: 533–535. Google Scholar


E. G. Castellón 1980. Reprodução e dinââmica de população em Synoeca surinama (Hymenoptera, Vespidae). Acta Amazonica 10(3): 679–690. Google Scholar


R. S. Copeland , R. A. Wharton , Q. Luke , and M. Meyer 2002. Indigenous hosts of Ceratitis capitata (Diptera: Tephritidae) in Kenya. Ann. Entomol. Soc. America 95: 672–694. Google Scholar


A. R. De Souza , D. F. A. Venancio , J. C. Zanuncio , and F. Prezoto 2010. Sampling methods for assessing social wasps diversity in a eucalyptus plantation. J. Econ. Entomol. 104: 1120–1123. Google Scholar


T. Elisei , C. R. Junior , D. L. Guimaräes , and F. Prezoto 2005. Foraging activity and nesting of swarm-founding wasp Synoeca cyanea (Hymenoptera: Vespidae, Polistinae). Sociobiology 46(2): 317–327. Google Scholar


T. Elisei , J. V. Nunes , C. Ribeiro-Junior , A. J. F. Junior , and F. Prezoto 2010. Uso da vespa social Polistes versicolor no controle de desfolhadores de eucalipto. Pesquisa Agropecuária Brasileira 45: 958–964. Google Scholar


D. R. R. Fernandes , and E. L. Araújo 2011. Ocorrência de Zaprionus indianus Gupta (Diptera: Drosophilidae) em frutos de juazeiro Ziziphus joazeiro mart. (Rhamnaceae) no estado do Rio Grande do Norte. Rev. Brasileira Fruticultura 33(4): 1356–1358. Google Scholar


E. Giannotti , F. Prezoto , and V. L. L. MacHado 1995. Foraging activity of Polistes lanio lanio (Fabr.) (Hymenoptera, Vespidae). An. Soc. Entomol. Brasil 24: 455–463. Google Scholar


M. Henrique-Simöes , M. D. Cuozzo , and F. A. Frieiro-Costa 2011. Social wasps of Unilavras/Boqueirão Biological Reserve, Ingaí, state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Check List 7(5): 656–667. Google Scholar


F. Prezoto , S. A. O. Cortes , and A. C. Melo 2008. Vespas: de vilãs a parceiras. Ciência Hoje 43(253): 70–72. Google Scholar


F. Prezoto , M. A. P. Lima , and V. L. L. MacHado 2005. Survey of preys captured and used by Polybia platycephala(Richards) (Hymenoptera: Vespidae; Epiponini). Neotrop. Entomol. 34(5): 849–851. Google Scholar


F. Prezoto , H. H. Santos-Prezoto , V. L. L. MacHado , and J. C. Zanuncio 2006. Prey captured and used in Polistes versicolor (Olivier) (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) nourishment. Neotrop. Entomol. 35(5): 707–709. Google Scholar


A. Raga 2002 Mosca-do-figo, pp. 75–79 In Anais do VII Reunião Itinerante de Fitossanidade do Instituto Biológico Frutas. Indaiatuba. Google Scholar


A. Raga , and M. F. Souza-Filho 2003. Captura de Zaprionus indianus (Gupta) (Diptera: Drosophilidae) em frascos de plásticos com iscasalimentares na cultura do figo, Revista Agr. Piracicaba 78(3): 323–329. Google Scholar


A. Raga , R. A. MacHado , M. F. Souza-Filho , M. E. Sato , and R. C. Siloto 2005. Tephritoidea (Diptera) species from Myrtaceae fruits in the state of São Paulo, Brazil. Entomotropica 20: 11–14. Google Scholar


M. F. Souza-Filho , A. Raga , and R. A. Zucchi 2003. Moscas-das-frutas no estado de São Paulo: ocorrência e danos. Laranja. Cordeirópolis 24(1): 45–69. Google Scholar


C. R. Vilela 1999. Is Zaprionus indianus Gupta, 1970 (Diptera, Drosophilidae) currently colonizing the Neotropical Region? Drosophila Inf. Serv. 82: 37–39. Google Scholar


M. Zart , M. Botton , and A. O. Fernandes 2011. Injúrias causadas por mosca-das-frutas sul-americana em cultivares de videira. Bragantia, Campinas 70(1): 64–71. Google Scholar
Fábio Prezoto and Nayara Braga "Predation of Zaprinus indianus (Diptera: Drosophilidae) by the Social Wasp Synoeca cyanea (Hymenoptera: Vespidae)," Florida Entomologist 96(2), 670-672, (1 June 2013).
Published: 1 June 2013
biological control
controle biológico
exotic pest
fruit fly
inimigo natural
natural enemy
Back to Top