June 2016 Featured Paper

“Predatory Role of Lampyrid Larvae (Lamprigera tenebrosa); Laboratory Experiments to Control Agricultural Molluscan Pests, Achatina fulica and Laevicaulis altae,” W.M.C.D. Wijekoon, H.C.E. Wegiriya, and C.N.L. Bogahawatta.
International Journal of Science, Environment and Technology, Vol. 5, No. 1, 2016, pp. 1–6
Read the original article.

Most species of fireflies do not eat as adults. However, firefly larvae are voracious predators, feeding on snails, slugs, and other invertebrates. Since most of the firefly’s life is spent as a larva, understanding their feeding habits is important to determine their effect on the environment.

Fireflies feed in one of two ways. Some feed on dead animals; others actively hunt live prey. These hunter fireflies inject a digestive fluid that immobilizes the prey and decomposes the flesh, which the larvae then ingest.

Lamprigera tenebrosa is a common firefly throughout Asia. The larvae are predators of molluscs such as the giant African snail, Achatina fulica.* During the 1950s, several hundred L. tenebrosa firefly larvae were exported to Hawaii, Indonesia, Guam, and the Philippines to control the population of this snail, which had established itself as an extremely destructive agricultural pest.

Both the snail and the tropical leatherleaf slug, Laevicaulis altae, are invasive pests to vegetable seedlings in Sri Lanka. This study compares the amount of damage to selected vegetables caused by these two molluscs and the effectiveness of firefly larvae in mitigating that damage.

In the first test, firefly larvae were placed in a box with giant African snails. After 12 hours, the number of snails attacked by the larvae was counted. The experiment was repeated, replacing the snails with the leatherleaf slug.

These tests resulted in convincing evidence that firefly larvae are efficient predators of both the snail and the slug. In a 24-hour period, the larvae would consume two snails or slugs each. When more than two slugs were available to each larva, the extra slugs were killed but not eaten.

The second experiment consisted of containers of cabbage seedlings with the snails and slugs added. With no firefly larvae present, the giant African snails damaged 90% of the plants within 24 hours. As firefly larvae were added to the containers, the amount of damage to the cabbage diminished: the addition of ten larvae reduced damage to just 15%. The results were comparable when tested using bean seedlings.

Repeating the experiment with the tropical leatherleaf slug produced similar results. With no firefly larvae to feed on the slugs, 55% of the cabbage and 36% of the bean plants were damaged. The addition of firefly larvae reduced damage to just 3%.

*Native to Africa, the giant African snail has since been introduced to many parts of the world.

The results indicate that the larvae of fireflies can be an effective biological control for nocturnal molluscan pests like the giant African snail and tropical leatherleaf slug.

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