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Ecologists at work! – Abhilasha Joshi

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One day while having tea in the institute campus, we noticed that a common ornamental plant for gardening and landscaping were diseased in large numbers. We noticed the leaves curling inwards along the midrib with red or brown spots on the surface of the leaf. Soon the leaves would fall off and eventually the plant would die. We took upon ourselves, the task of identifying the cause of this disease. Simultaneously, we surveyed different areas of Chandigarh to identify the same. Upon close observation we discovered that the plant was infected by pests. The plant was found out to be Ficus benjamina. The job before us was to identify the pest. We observed the pests from the plant observed and they were found to be dark brown or black in colour, had segmented bodies, seven segmented antennae, red eyes, shiny transparent wings, brown coxa and femur and yellow tibia and tarsus (parts of an insect’s leg). Literature reviews on Ficus and pests indicated that the infecting pest could be either Gynaikothrips ficorum or Gynaikothrips uzeli. Only difference between G. uzeli and G. ficorum is the length of their pronotal posterioannular setae (PPS) and epimeral setae. In G. uzeli length of epimeral setae is greater than or equal to 0.7 times the length of the PPS; while in G. ficorum length of the epimeral setae is less than or equal to 0.5 times the length of PPS. It was later confirmed that the pest under observation was G. Ficorum. As Gynaikothrips ficorum is known to be a gall inducer of Ficus microcarpa while another species of thrips, Gynaikothrips uzeli is the gall inducer of Ficus benjamina. Gynaikothrips ficorum is found on Ficus benjamina but requires F.microcarpa in the vicinity to complete its life cycle.

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