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Patterns and drivers of genetic diversity and structure in the biological control parasitoid Habrobracon hebetor in Niger

Garba M., Loiseau A., Tatard C., Benoit L., Gauthier N.. 2019. Bulletin of Entomological Research, 109 (6) : p. 794-811.

DOI: 10.1017/S0007485319000142

When a promising natural enemy of a key pest exists locally, it is a common practice in biological control (BC) to rear and release it for supplementary control in the targeted agroecosystem even though significant knowledge gaps concerning pre/ post release may still exist. Incorporating genetic information into BC research fills some of these gaps. Habrobracon hebetor, a parasitoid of many economically important moths that infest stored and field crops worldwide is commonly used, particularly against the millet head miner (MHM), a key pest of millet in Sahelian countries. To advance our knowledge on how H. hebetor that occurs naturally in open-field cropping systems and grain stores as well as being mass-produced and released forMHM control, performs in millet agroecosystems in Niger we evaluated its population genetics using two mitochondrial and 21 microsatellite markers. The field samples were genetically more diverse and displayed heterozygote excess. Very few field samples had faced significant recent demographic bottlenecks. The mating system (i.e. nonrandom mating with complementary sex determination) of this species may be the major driver of these findings rather than bottlenecks caused by the small number of individuals released and the scarcity of hosts during the longlasting dry season in Niger. H. hebetor population structure was represented by several small patches and genetically distinct individuals. Gene flow occurred at local and regional scales through human-mediated and natural short-distance dispersal. These findings highlight the importance of the mating system in the genetic diversity and structure of H. hebetor populations, and contribute to our understanding of its reported efficacy against MHM in pearl millet fields.

Mots-clés : millet; insecte nuisible; bracon; parasitoïde; lutte biologique; génétique des populations; niger; heliocheilus albipunctella; habrobracon hebetor

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