Biological control of the common house fly Musca domestica L. in horse stables, using Bacillus thuringiensis serovar israelensis and Beauveria bassiana.
House flies (Musca domestica L.) are common pests affecting horses and their owners. Control of house flies in stable yards is currently based on the use of pesticides. However, the development of resistance by these flies to most pesticide groups has motivated horse owners to seek alternative methods of fly control. An entomopathogenic fungus, Beauveria bassiana (Bb) and an entomopathogenic bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis (Bti) are two biological agents known to have activity against house flies. The broad objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of these two biological control agents on house flies in an equine environment. Using a structured questionnaire, presented in Chapter 2, thirty horse owners in KwaZulu-Natal were asked about the nuisance value of house flies, their current control measures, the potential market for biocontrol agents against house flies, and each owner’s perception of biocontrol methods. The horse owners were using three methods of house fly control namely, physical, chemical and biological. Most horse owners (97%) wanted access to effective biocontrol agents for control of house flies. Most horse owners (80%) stabled their horses at night, some or all of the time. The resultant manure piles in the stable yard were considered to be the primary cause of house fly problems. About 64% of the horse owners were dissatisfied with the currently available methods of controlling house flies in this situation. Chapter 3 covers two observational trials in which varying doses of Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis (Bti) were fed to horses, in order to identify a baseline dosage to give to horses in order to adequately control house fly populations growing in horse manure. The bacterium Bti, grown on wheat bran, was fed to six miniature horses at doses of 0, 0.125, 0.25, 0.5, 0.75, and 1.0 g per meal in Trial 3a, and at 0, 0.5, 1, 2, 4 and 8 g per meal in Trial 3b. Faeces were collected three times a week for 11 weeks and placed in incubation trays to allow the number of emerging adult house flies and closed pupae to be counted. In Trial 3a, there was a significant reduction in the number of closed pupae with an increase in Bti in the feed. The regression equation suggests that there will be 3.1 times as many closed pupae in the faeces when horses are fed 1 g of Bti in their feed, than when horses are fed no Bti. This dosage is the minimum baseline dosage for future trials. v Using manure from horses dosed in Trials 3a and 3b, the survival of the bacterium through the gut of horses was evaluated using a standard isolation technique. The growth of Bt colonies on the manure after the Bt isolation technique showed that some of the bacterial cells survived transition through the digestive tract of the horse. This study was qualitative in nature and did not attempt to quantify the level of Bti spore survival. These two observations suggest that Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis has the potential to be used as a biocontrol agent, applied via horse feed, for the control of house flies in stable yards. Future clinical trials, with appropriate replication, should be conducted using 1 g Bti/meal as the lowest test dosage. The objective of Chapter 4 was to determine whether spraying Bti or Bb on to horse manure is effective in the control of house flies. Over a six week period, two spraying trials were conducted in which increasing doses of Bb and Bti were sprayed on to 500 g samples of horse manure. Counts of house fly pupae and adults were taken. The doses of Bb and Bti tested were 0, 1, 2, 4 g in Trial 4a, and 0, 4, 8 and 12 g in Trial 4b. The research reported in Chapter 4 was characterized by the unexpectedly high levels of biological variation in egg, larvae and pupae numbers that were found in samples of horse manure, taken from the same skip two days apart. The statistical design of the two trials conducted was inadequate to cope with the high level of variation about treatment means for fly and larval counts. However, despite the lack of significant differences between treatment means, there is observational evidence that suggests that both Bb and Bti do have an effect on house fly survival. A simplified statistical model, which compared the number of hatched house flies on untreated manure, with the number on manure treated with any level of Bb (1 to 4 g /250 ml water), found a significant reduction in the number of hatched flies on treated manure. There was no significant corresponding reduction in the number of closed pupae, which suggests that Bb acts primarily before the larva pupates. The optimal dose of Bb and Bti to be sprayed on to manure could not be determined because of the high variation about treatment means. It is suggested that, in future trials similar dosages for Bb could be tested, but that higher dosages of Bti (starting at 2 g/250 ml water) should be used. Trial periods should be extended and replication increased dramatically to reduce variation about treatment means. Transformation of data before analysis may also be necessary to equalize variation about treatment means.