A survey of predatory Cecidomyiidae (Diptera) on mealybugs in the agriculture landscape of Israel

The family Cecidomyiidae (Diptera) is primarily comprised of phytophagous species, but also contains hundreds of species whose larvae are predators of other insects or mites. Despite the abundance of these midges in both agricultural and natural settings, almost nothing is known about their systematics, life history and importance in regulating prey populations. The lack of taxonomic and other information on this group stems from the tiny size of the adult midges, the morphological uniformity of species in many of the relevant genera, and the fact that many species were described from adults that were caught in flight, without any association to host prey or between sexes within the same species. The proposed survey will be the first to systematically study the Israeli fauna of predatory cecidomyiids and to characterize their interactions with their prey. We propose to focus on the fauna of midges that prey on scale insects (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on various agricultural crops based on observations suggesting that these insects support a rich fauna of predatory cecidomyiids and because scale insects are serious pests for which very few effective control measures are available. The survey will be conducted in four different regions of Israel from which insects will be collected and brought to the laboratory for rearing. This will enable to associate immature stages with adults of both sexes of the predators. The proposed study will not only promote our virtually non-existent knowledge on this group of flies in Israel but may also lead to maximizing their potential benefit against agricultural pests.