Host range of Ceutorhynchus assimilis (Coleoptera: Curculionidae), a candidate for biological control of Lepidium draba (Brassicaceae) in the USA.
Ceutorhynchus assimilis has been selected as a potential biological control agent of Lepidium draba, which is a Eurasian invasive weed in North America. Preliminary studies indicated specificity of this weevil collected in southern France on L. draba. This result was in discord with the pest status of C. assimilis found in the literature. Host-specificity tests based both on field and laboratory experiments showed heterogeneity in the host spectrum of the weevils reared from different host-plants as determined by larval development. However, no distinguishable morphological differences could be visually detected between the populations feeding on different host-plants. All sampled populations of weevils were polyphagous as adults. Weevils reared from L. draba were specific to this plant for their complete larval development. Conversely, populations living on other wild and cultivated Brassicaceae species were not able to use L. draba as a host plant. Such differentiation is further highlighted by other biological aspects such as plant infestation rates, sex-ratio, duration of larval development, and differences in the timing of their life cycles. These results demonstrate that C. assimilis, an insect species formerly considered as a pest of Brassicaceae, is characterized by its host-range variability, with one population being potentially useful in the biological control of L. draba. Moreover, this example points to the need to test multiple populations of biological control agents in assessing risk.