oa African Entomology - Resolving ambiguous results of host-specificity tests: the case of two Leptinotarsa species (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) for biological control of Solanum elaeagnifolium Cavanilles (Solanaceae) in South Africa



Two leaf-feeding chrysomelids from North America, Leptinotarsa texana (Schaeffer) and Leptinotarsa defecta (Stal), are promising candidates for the biological control of Solanum elaeagnifolium Cavanilles (Solanaceae) in South Africa. Permission for release was delayed because the beetles fed on cultivated eggplant (Solanum melongena Linnaeus) under cage conditions. After considerable deliberation and further investigation, it was concluded that the results of the cage tests had been overemphasized. The beetles were cleared for release in South Africa on the following grounds: (i) neither Leptinotarsa species attacks eggplant in their native North American habitats; (ii) in South Africa, many insect herbivores of Solanaceae feed on eggplant in cultivation but cause minor damage relative to cosmopolitan polyphagous pests; (iii) as with L. texana and L. defecta, Conchyloctenia tigrina Olivier, a South African chrysomelid that also occurs on eggplant in cultivation, fed on eggplant in indoor cages, but preferred its natural Solanum hosts in large outdoor cages; (iv) eggplant cultivation methods include crop rotation and severe pesticide regimes, which should exclude Leptinotarsa along with the other insects.


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