The South American tomato leafminer, Tuta absoluta Meyrick (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae), is a major pest that has recently invaded Afro-Eurasia. Biological control, especially by Trichogramma parasitoids, is considered to be promising as a management tool for this pest. However, further development of Trichogramma-based biocontrol strategies would benefit from assessing the impact of released parasitoid offspring on the pest. Under laboratory conditions, we 1) compared the parasitism of five Trichogramma species-strains on the pest-plant system T. absoluta-tomato, and 2) assessed various biological traits of parasitoids, mass-reared on a factitious host (Ephestia kuehniella Zeller), when developing on T. absoluta. In addition, we evaluated the overall efficiency of two specific Trichogramma species when released under greenhouse conditions in combination with a common natural enemy in tomato crop, the predator Macrolophus pygmaeus Rambur. Parasitoids emerging from T. absoluta on tomato showed lower parasitism rates and poor biological traits, for example, wing deformations, reduced longevity, when compared with the control reared on the factitious host. Under greenhouse conditions, the parasitoids that developed on T. absoluta after initial releases contributed little to biological control of T. absoluta, and parasitism tended to be lower when the predator was present. However, a slightly higher T. absoluta control level was achieved by combining the predator and release of the parasitoid Trichogramma achaeae Nagaraja and Nagarkatti. This study shows that Trichogramma parasitoids may not build up populations on the T. absoluta-tomato system, but that Trichogramma parasitoids can be used in combination with M. pygmaeus to enhance biological control of the pest in tomato crops.
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