Effects of Beetle Density and Time of Day on the Dispersal of Gratiana boliviana (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae)

Chong Juang-Horng, Jeffrey J. Tefel, Amy L. Roda, Catharine M. Mannion


The leaf beetle, Gratiana boliviana Spaeth, is a biological control agent of tropical soda apple (Solanum viarum Dunal), a noxious weed invading the rangeland and agricultural fields of Florida and other southeastern states. In caged experiments, we examined the influence of beetle density and the time of day on the dispersal of the leaf beetle. Increasing beetle density from 2 to 100 beetles per plant did not increase G. boliviana dispersal, as long as the host plants were not severely defoliated. An increase in beetle density from 10 to 100 beetles per plant significantly reduced the per capita fecundity from 0.3 to 0.02 eggs over a 24-h period. Thus, a mass rearing method for G. boliviana should consider the potential detrimental effect of increasing density on the fecundity of the leaf beetle. When the dispersal activity of the leaf beetle was observed between 8:00 and 18:00 h, the proportion of beetles dispersing from a given plant increased throughout the morning hours and peaked at noon. A monitoring or sampling program of G. boliviana should be conducted in the early morning or late afternoon when the beetles' tendency to disperse is the lowest in order to more accurately sample for the population density in a certain area. Beetle density and the time of day interacted to influence the proportion of G. boliviana dispersing from a given plant. The proportions of beetles that dispersed were not different among the different time periods at densities of less than 40 beetles per plant. At or above 40 beetles per plant, the proportion of beetles that dispersed peaked at noon. This study suggests that a myriad of factors, including density, feeding damage, photoperiod and host plant quality, interact to determine the dispersal pattern of G. boliviana.

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