Bats eat pest green vegetable stink bugs (Nezara viridula): Diet analyses of seven insectivorous species of bats roosting and foraging in macadamia orchards.

By Peter Taylor Kristine Bohmann Jacobus Steyn Corrie Schoeman Emmanuel Matamba Marie Zepeda-Mendoza Tshifhiwa Nangammbi Thomas Gilbert  | 2013

A growing body of literature has documented the economically signifi cant impact of bats as predators of agricultural pest insects. This has not yet been established in macadamia agro-ecosystems where stink bugs (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae) are the major pests. The present study examined faecal pellets of seven species of bats collected from macadamia orchards in the Levubu Valley, Limpopo Province, South Africa, using both conventional microscopic as well as second generation sequencing analyses (faecal pellets from three bat species were studied by both methods). Microscopic analysis of faecal pellets and culled prey remains collected from night and day roosts and captured individuals of slit-faced bats (Nycteris thebaica), Angolan freetailed bats (Mops condylurus), African pipistrelles (Pipistrellus hesperidus) and yellow house bats (Scotophilus dinganii) revealed important (20-50%) proportions of bugs (Order Hemiptera), higher than recorded in previous studies conducted in natural habitats. But this method was unable to provide further taxonomic resolution concerning the families or species of bugs present and whether these included the pest green vegetable stink bug (Nezara viridula - also known in the USA as the southern green stink bug). Preliminary results from a molecular approach, using second generation sequencing of a 157 bp fragment of the COI-barcoding region, revealed that faecal pellets of fi ve species of bats foraging and roosting in macadamia plantations contained DNA from the pest green vegetable stink bug: slit-faced bats (Nycteris thebaica), Mops free-tailed bats (Mops midas), little free-tailed bats (Chaerephon pumilus), African pipistrelles (Pipistrellus hesperidus) and yellow house bats (Scotophilus dinganii). No stink bug DNA was detected in pellets of a sixth species, Sundevall’s leaf-nosed bat (Hipposideros caffer). Based on a total of 37 faecal pellets analysed for all bat species combined, about one third (32%) of the pellets contained DNA from green vegetable stink bugs. A similar proportion of the pellets (35%) contained DNA from unidentifi ed insects from the order Hemiptera. These data provide unequivocal evidence for predation by bats on green vegetable stink bugs, but the economic importance remains to be established although it is likely to be high.

JournalSouthern African Macadamia Growers' Association Yearbook
PublisherSouthern African Macadamia Growers’ Association