The medical, veterinary and economic importance of blackflies in South Africa, and the historical development of blackfly control programmes in various South African rivers, are reviewed in this paper. In 1996 it was estimated that blackflies can cause more than R 88 million damages per annum along the middle and lower Orange River where Simulium chutteri is considered the main pest species. A clear link between the construction of dams and the spread of the blackfly problem was shown. Four phases characterize the development of blackfly control in South Africa: (1) during the 1960s blackflies in the Vaal River were controlled with DDT; (2) during the 1970s and into the
1980s blackflies were controlled using water-flow manipulation; (3) when used at strategic times, water-flow manipulation could be used to enhance the effect of natural predator populations; and (4) during the 1990s the organophosphate temephos and toxins produced by the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis were tested for their efficacy against blackflies. The larvicides temephos and B. thuringiensis proved to be effective and are still used in several control programmes. The latest research focuses on the factors that influence adult blackfly survival and annoyance, as well as the development of methods that can be used to protect sheep from blackfly attacks.
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