Pest kill rate as aggregate evaluation criterion to rank biological control agents: A case study with Neotropical predators of Tuta absoluta on tomato

Lenteren, J.C. Van; Bueno, V.H.P.; Burgio, G.; Lanzoni, A.; Montes, F.C.; Silva, D.B.; Jong, P.W. De; Hemerik, L.


Tuta absoluta (Meyrick), a key pest of tomato, is quickly spreading over the world and biological control is considered as one of the control options. Worldwide more than 160 species of natural enemies are associated with this pest, and an important challenge is to quickly find an effective biocontrol agent from this pool of candidate species. Evaluation criteria for control agents are presented, with the advantages they offer for separating potentially useful natural enemies from less promising ones. Next, an aggregate parameter for ranking agents is proposed: the pest kill rate k m . We explain why the predator's intrinsic rate of increase cannot be used for comparing the control potential of predators or parasitoids, while k m can be used to compare both types of natural enemies. As an example, kill rates for males, females and both sexes combined of three Neotropical mirid species (Campyloneuropsis infumatus (Carvalho), Engytatus varians (Distant) and Macrolophus basicornis (Stål)) were determined, taking all life-history data (developmental times, survival rates, total nymphal and adult predation, sex ratios and adult lifespan) into account. Based on the value for the intrinsic rate of increase (r m ) for T. absoluta and for the kill rate k m of the predators, we predict that all three predators are potentially able to control the pest, because their k m values are all higher than the r m of the pest. Using only k m values, we conclude that E. varians is the best candidate for control of T. absoluta on tomato, with C. infumatus ranking second and M. basicornis last.