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Keywords:

  • Agaonidae;
  • attractants;
  • dispersal;
  • Ficus;
  • flight;
  • wind

Abstract

Fig wasps (Chalcidoidea, Agaonidae, Agaoninae) are the exclusive pollinators of fig trees (Ficus spp., Moraceae). Fig development on the African fig tree, F. burtt-davyi, is normally synchronised on individual trees, but not between trees. Consequently the females of each generation of the pollinating species (Elisabethiella baijnathi) have to disperse to other trees to find ‘receptive’ figs which are suitable for oviposition. This paper examines this aspect of fig - fig wasp biology. The flight speed of insects is closely linked to their size, and directional flight is difficult for small insects, such as fig wasps, in all but the lightest of winds. We investigated the movements of fig wasps between trees using sticky traps placed around fig trees or near cotton bags containing figs. Away from the trees, the densities of flying wasps at different heights was also determined. When the wasps disperse from their natal figs they take off near-vertically. They are unable to exert directional control once they enter the air column and are subsequently blown downwind. Near receptive host trees the wasps appear to lose height and then fly upwind at speeds of around 25 cm/sec.