Host Specificity of Anthonomus elutus (Coleoptera: Curculionidae), A Potential Biological Control Agent of Wetland Nightshade (Solanaceae) in Florida

J. Medal, N. Bustamante, J. Barrera, O. Avila, J. Monzón, J. Cuda


Multiple-choice and no-choice tests were conducted at the Department of Agriculture-Division of Plant industry Quarantine facility in Gainesville to determine the specificity of the Mexican/Central-American flower-bud weevil Anthonomus elutus Clark, a candidate for biological control of Solanum tampicense Dunal (wetland-nightshade) in Florida. Eighty-seven plant species in 17 families were included in the feeding-oviposition multiple-choice tests including the target weed and the 6 major cultivated Solanaceae Capsicum annuum L. Capsicum frutescens L., Lycopersicon esculentum Mill., Nicotiana tabacum L., Solanum melongena L., and Solarium tuberosum L. Plant bouquets with flower-buds of 8 to 10 plant species randomly selected, including always S. tampicense, were simultaneously exposed to 20–26 A. elutus adults during approximately 2 weeks. Observation of oviposition and feeding were made twice a week. No-choice host-specificity tests were conducted with A. elutus adults on potted plants in cages made of clear-plastic cylinders. Ten A. elutus adults were exposed to 30 plant species individually tested during 2 weeks. Plant species in each test were replicated 3–4 times. Results indicated that A. tenebrosus fed and laid eggs only on the target weed. No eggs were deposited on any of the other 86 plant species tested. The host-specificity tests indicated that a host range expansion of A. elutus to include any of the major cultivated Solanaceae species is highly unlikely. A petition for field release in Florida was submitted to the Technical Advisory Group for Biological Control Agents of Weeds (TAG) in Dec 2008.

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