Responses of cactus insects to burned and unburned pricklypear, Opuntia polyacantha Haworth



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Texas Tech University


Prescribed burning to control plains pricklypear, Opuntia polyacantha (Cactaceae), has revealed an association between insects and burned cactus. Field populations of two principal cactus-insect species, Chelinidea vittiger (Hemiptera: Coreidae) and Olycella subumbrella (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae), were monitored after a prescribed burn on Griffis Ranch, Garza County, Texas, in spring of 1981. Densities of both insects were significantly greater in the burned field than in an adjacent unburned field, during much of the first post-burn season. Populations of other important cactus-insect species were also greater for the burned treatment. In the laboratory, Dactylopius confusus (Homoptera: Dactylopiidae) and £. vittiger exhibited feeding preferences for burned pads, and the latter species also showed a preference for burned pads as mating and resting sites. These results suggest that insects, in combination with prescribed fire, may be an effective control measure against pricklypear cactus.



Insect populations -- Texas -- Garza County, Prescribed burning -- Texas -- Garza County, Prickly pears -- Biological control, Prickly pears -- Control