Biology and host preferences of Cryptorhynchus melastomae (Coleoptera: Curculionidae), a possible biocontrol agent for Miconia calvescens (Melastomataceae) in Hawaii.
The introduced plant Miconia calvescens (Melastomataceae) poses a grave threat to Hawaii's native ecosystems and biodiversity. One potential candidate for classical biological control is Cryptorhynchus melastomae (Coleoptera: Curculionidae: Cryptorhynchinae), a stem-boring weevil from Central and South America. This weevil feeds on M. calvescens in its native Costa Rica and has been successfully reared under greenhouse conditions. Comparison of its environmental conditions in Costa Rica with those in the Miconia infested areas of Hawaii indicates the latter is a suitable habitat for C. melastomae. C. melastomae has one or two generations per year. Adults feed on new stems, petioles, leaf buds, veins, and lamina, whereas larvae mine the stem until pupation. Adults appear to prefer saplings for oviposition and feeding. Under greenhouse conditions both adults and larvae can seriously damage and kill small M. calvescens. Preliminary host testing indicates that C. melastomae may be family specific on Melastomataceae. However, because Hawaii lacks native melastomes and has many other serious melastome weeds, a family specific insect may be suitable as a biocontrol agent in this case.