Members of the genus Tragocephala are widespread as pests of cocoa, and other tree crops, in West and also in East Africa. Those known to be associated with cocoa in West Africa are listed and observations are given on the biology of two of the more important, T. castitnia theobromae Entw. in Ghana and T. castnia cacaoensis Entw. in Nigeria, and a method of laboratory rearing and breeding is described.
The egg is laid in an unhardened stem and the oviposition behaviour is complex; the stem is first girdled at a point where it is less than one centimetre in diameter and an oviposition slit excavated above the girdle. The ovipositor is inserted into this slit and the egg is concealed inside the stem; the adult finally closes the oviposition slit with her mandibles.
The egg hatches after 11 days and the young larva bores upwards in the dead wood above the girdle. This phase appears obligatory and is followed by one in which the larva bores down into the living stem below the girdle. The mean larval period of T. castnia theobromae in the laboratory was 143 days (range, 70–228 days).
A pupal chamber is made by severing the stem beyond about 10 cm. above the end of the gallery and filling the aperture with shreds of wood. The pupal period, in the last half of which adult coloration begins to show, is about 20 days for T. castnia theobromae and 23 days for T. castnia cacaocnsis.
Laboratory evidence suggests that there is a post-pupal resting phase in the pupal chamber followed by a free-living non-feeding period; in T. castnia cacaocnsis these lasted on average 6·5 and 4·2 days, respectively, and were followed by intensive feeding on green unhardened stems. The length of life of caged adults varied greatly but the mean was 57·0 and 55·5 days for males and females, respectively, of T. castnia theobromae and 32·0 and 28·5 days for T. castnia cacaoensis. The least preoviposition period noted for T. castnia theobromae was 20 days and previously unmated males and females of this subspecies were still fertile up to at least 76 and 162 days, respectively. Mating normally initiated the bark-ringing behaviour of females and the maximum number of eggs laid by a female of T. castnia theobromae was 146. Considering only individuals that laid 25 or more eggs, an oviposition rate (number of eggs laid per day between first and last oviposition) of 0·51 was recorded for this subspecies. Host plants alternative to cocoa are listed for T. castnia theobromae and T, castnia cacaoensis.
The oviposition activity of T. castnia theobromae was least in June, July, August, December and January, whilst for T. castnia cacaoensis very few eggs were laid in the main dry season (November to the following February).
The eggs of T. nobilis (F.), T. castnia theobromae and T. castnia cacaoensis, and of another species in the Congo Eepublic, are attacked by the Encyrtid Aprostocetus lamiicidus Kerrich, which in Nigeria appears to undergo a larval diapause in the dry season. Whilst only 5·5 per cent, of eggs were attacked in Ghana, over 50·0 per cent, were attacked in Nigeria. There was an average of 11·7 individuals per egg and the ratio of males to females was 1:2·7.
The Tachinid Billaea vanemdeni Fennah was parasitic on larvae of T. nobilis and T. castnia theobromae in Ghana, where its larval stage was in the region of 197 days and its pupal stage 23 days. Incidence of attack was highest from April to July and the two main adult emergence periods were June and September/ October.
An Ichneumonid, Nadia sp., is parasitic on either larvae or pupae of T. castnia cacaoensis in Nigeria. Scolytid species incursive in wood dying after being girdled destroy many eggs in Nigeria, where geckoes and ants are thought to be responsible for loss of larvae.
Tragocephala can be a locally important pest, especially of seedling cocoa and its numbers may increase considerably if unsuitable chemical control methods are used against other pests of cocoa.
The bark-ringing habit in Cerambycidae is discussed.