This tiny predaceous beetle is being developed for whitefly control. It works best at high population levels of whitefly, higher than most growers would find acceptable within a crop. The adults must feed on at least 10 whitefly eggs per day in order to continue their own egg production. Both the adult and larval stages feed on whiteflies. Introduction rates range from 1 Delphastus per infested plant or 5-10 per 10 square feet. Delphastus alone will not be able to reduce whitefly populations to acceptable levels. A program involving Encarsia as well will likely be necessary.
Delphastus catalinae is considered an effective biological control agent for whiteflies because of its high prey consumption rates, long adult survival, and high reproduction rates. Delphastus catalinae has received research attention in Florida and other states for its value as a predator of the whitefly Bemisia tabaci (Gennadius) (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae), which is an economically important pest of ornamental and agricultural crops.
Delphastus pusillus is a small native from Florida with a wide distribution across the central and southern U.S.
It is also found in Central America, the Caribbean and in South America as far south as Peru. D. pusillus attacks all
species and stages of whiteflies, but prefers eggs and nymphs. The adults are small (1/16 inch), shiny, black beetles.
They are strong fliers that will immigrate into areas that contain high densities of whiteflies. D. pusillus responds to
odors emitted by immature whiteflies, so it can find congregations of them easily among the foliage.
The beetles tend to fly around more on overcast days. Female beetles live for about 2 months, during which time they lay
3 to 4 eggs per day. (Male beetles live for 1 month.) They generally lay their eggs within clusters of whitefly eggs,
which makes it easier for the young larvae to find a food source. The eggs are 0.2 mm long, clear and twice as long as
they are wide. The elongate larvae are pale yellow. Each instar lasts 1-3 days. D. pusillus pupates on lower leaves,
in leaf litter, or in other protected locations, often in groups. The pupa stage lasts approximately 6 days.
Newly emerged adults are pale-brown to almost white. They eventually turn black with a brown head. Development from
egg to adult takes approximately 3 weeks at 80-85-F. Both larvae and adults are active predators that can consume
numerous eggs or nymphs each day. An adult Delphastus takes no longer than half a minute to handle a whitefly egg,
and devours up to 160 eggs or 12 large nymphs daily. A larva consumes 1000 whitefly eggs (less if it also eats whitefly
nymphs) during its entire development. Adults and larvae feed by piercing the insect with their mouthparts and alternately
sucking and regurgitating the internal contents to digest and consume it. Adult females feed more on eggs and first
instars than on later stages. Delphastus performs best at temperatures between 65 and 90-F and when relative humidity
is above 70%. Beetle searching, feeding, and egg laying may be inhibited by plants with dense trichomes (hairs).
Therefore this natural enemy may not be suitable for use against whiteflies on some plants, such as many varieties
of tomato. In addition, adult movement is inhibited by excessive amounts of honeydew produced by the whiteflies.
Beetles are slowed down or trapped in the sticky exudate. Delphastus has the potential to decimate large populations
of whiteflies in the greenhouse since a single beetle can consume 10,000 whitefly eggs in its lifetime.
However, since adult female beetles must feed on over 200 eggs per day in order to reproduce; these beetles are
unlikely to persist when whitefly numbers are low. Delphastus can be used in conjunction with other biological control
organisms. Both adult and larval beetles avoid feeding on whitefly nymphs parasitized by wasps such as Encarsia
when the wasps are in later stages of development. In some experiments whitefly control was better when the beetle was
released simultaneously with a wasp, than when the natural enemies were released alone. Delphastus, which is
commercially available, is normally shipped as adults, often in a tube filled with shredded paper or other cushioning
material. Upon arrival, these predators should be released immediately; although the beetle can be stored briefly at
59-68-F. Releases should be made in the early morning or evening (dusk) near areas of high whitefly populations.
Delph astus is most effective at high whitefly densities,
so it may be of limited benefit in greenhouses where whitefly populations are kept at low population levels by other
means. But even in these situations it can be used as a rescue treatment to help suppress "hot spots" where whitefly
colonies are increasing.