Simulium chutteri is considered a major pest in South Africa and it has been estimated that it can potentially cause stock losses amounting to more than R88 million per annum. Although a larval control programme has been launched to control the pest, major outbreaks still occur, since major fitness traits such as longevity are ignored in the planning of control actions. To improve the control programme, the aim of this study was to study the longevity of S. chutteri females under various conditions, and also to relate longevity to factors such as size, mass and metabolic reserves as these traits show variation that can be linked to changes in developmental temperature. It was conclusively demonstrated in this study that the body size and mass of S. chutteri increases with a decrease in temperature and therefore both seasonal and geographical variations occur. A consequence of larger body size is that these individuals carry proportionally more lipid reserves than smaller ones, although these relationships were not found for glycogen. It was shown that major seasonal variation occurred in the survival of S. chutteri, although these could not be attributed solely to variations in size, mass and metabolic reserves. For example, despite the large body size and mass and metabolic reserves of the winter population, it showed comparatively lower survival than all the other populations. It is argued that this is due to the interaction between fecundity and other fitness traits such as desiccation and starvation resistance. Adaptive explanations are, however, also proposed. These results are used to explain the seasonal variation found in the annoyance levels of S. chutteri along the lower Orange River. Moreover, recommendations are given for the improvement of the current blackfly control programme. These include the need to control the summer population (when certain criteria are met) and showing the importance of effectively controlling the winter population.
Dissertation (MSc (Entomology))--University of Pretoria, 2006.