Life history and laboratory host range of Stenopelmus rufinasus, a natural enemy for Azolla filiculoides in South Africa.
The frond-feeding weevil, Stenopelmus rufinasus, was imported into quarantine for testing as a potential natural enemy for the invasive fern Azolla filiculoides in South Africa. Adult S. rufinasus lived for approximately 55 days during which the females produced on average 325 offspring. The developmental period for the immature stages (egg, three larval instars and pupation) was about 20 days indicating the potential for several overlapping generations per year. Both the adults and larvae caused severe damage to A. filiculoides in the laboratory. Host specificity of this insect was determined by adult no-choice oviposition and larval starvation tests on 31 plant species in 19 families. Adult feeding, oviposition and larval development was only recorded on the Azolla species tested (A. filiculoides, A. pinnata subsp. poss. asiatica, A. pinnata subsp. africana and A. nilotica). A. filiculoides was significantly the most suitable host for the weevil. The low adult emergence from A. nilotica and A. pinnata subsp. africana would most probably prevent the weevil from establishing on them in the field. A. pinnata subsp. poss. asiatica, which supported greater development, is thought to be introduced and has a weedy phenology in South Africa and is thus of low conservation value. Therefore, any damage inflicted on this plant in the field may be an acceptable trade-off for the predicted impact of S. rufinasus on the aggressive exotic weed, A. filiculoides.