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Impact of the biological control agent Rhinoncomimus latipes (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) on mile-a-minute weed, Persicaria perfoliata, in field cages

Hough-Goldstein, Judith, Schiff, Megan, Lake, Ellen, Butterworth, Brian
Biological control 2008 v.46 no.3 pp. 417-423
Polygonum perfoliatum, noxious weeds, broadleaf weeds, Rhinoncomimus latipes, biological control agents, weed control, invasive species, field experimentation, seed productivity, phenology, insect development, eclosion, overwintering, fecundity, plant competition, mortality, apical dominance, Delaware
A host-specific Asian weevil, Rhinoncomimus latipes Korotyaev, was approved in 2004 for release in North America for control of mile-a-minute weed, Persicaria perfoliata (L.) H. Gross (formerly Polygonum perfoliatum L.), an invasive annual vine from Asia. The impact of R. latipes feeding on P. perfoliata was studied in field cages over a 2-year period. In 2006, 20 weevils introduced into cages with single plants in May (when weevils first emerge from overwintering) suppressed seed production for about 9 weeks, while weevils introduced in June (when the first summer generation of adults emerge) did not affect seed phenology. Plants in all cages produced substantial numbers of seeds late in the year, but the average seed (achene) weight was reduced for plants with 20 weevils per plant introduced in May. In 2007, plants grown with some competition from other plants within field cages showed substantial mortality, with 63% of plants with 10 or 20 weevils and 75% of plants with 40 weevils per plant dead by mid-August, compared with 12.5% of control plants. Reproduction was delayed by more than a month in surviving plants with 10 or 20 weevils, and by more than 2 months in the few survivors with 40 weevils. Surviving plants with 40 weevils per plant showed loss of apical dominance, which can allow plants to compensate for herbivore damage, but in the case of a light-adapted vine like P. perfoliata may prevent the plants from achieving needed sun exposure. These results suggest that R. latipes feeding on P. perfoliata has the potential to impact plant growth and reproduction, and can put affected plants at a substantial competitive disadvantage.