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Schistonchus Caprifici Parasitizing Caprifig (Ficus Carica Sylvestris) Florets and the Relationship With Its Fig Wasp (Blastophaga Psenes) Vector

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Studies were conducted in Italy on the biology of Schistonchus caprifici (Nemata: Aphelenchoididae). This nematode parasitizes and reproduces on caprifig (Ficus carica sylvestris) inflorescences and also in the haemocoel of the fig pollinator wasp Blastophaga psenes. Staminate and pistillate florets of caprifig infected by S. caprifici exhibited necrosis and cavities in the cortical parenchyma of floret peduncles and stamen filaments. Schistonchus caprifici attacked pistillate florets of commercial fig (F. carica); however, S. caprifici population densities were less (P= 0.05) in commercial fig than in caprifig (550 nematodes vs. 12,000 nematodes/g fresh floret tissues, respectively). Schistonchus caprifici was spread from infected to healthy caprifig inflorescences through oviposition behaviour of the wasp, Blastophaga psenes. Wasp development occurred in inflorescences concomitantly infected with nematodes, which colonized and started reproducing in the haemocoel of wasp larvae. Schistonchus caprifici persisted in the pupae and winged females that developed in the pistillate florets. Wingless male wasps were not infected by the nematode. Commercial fig inflorescences were not receptive to wasp development, although these inflorescences were visited by ovipositing wasps which vectored nematodes in their florets. Nematode infection may result in premature inflorescence decay. There was no evidence of any adverse effect on B. psenes due to S. caprifici infection. The association between S. caprifici and B. psenes on caprifig can be defined as a parasitic relationship because of nematode reproduction in the wasp's haemocoel. Nematode populations from wasps and caprifig florets did not differ in their morphology.

Affiliations: 1: Istituto Nematologia Agraria, CNR, via Amendola 165/A, 70126 Bari, Italy; 2: Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, DPI, Bureau of Nematology, Gainesville, FL 32614-7100, U.S.A

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