Alternate crop and weed host plant oviposition preferences by the Mexican rice borer (Lepidoptera: Crambidae).
The Mexican rice borer, Eoreuma loftini (Dyar), is the key pest of sugarcane, Saccharum hybrids, in south Texas, having largely displaced the sugarcane borer, Diatraea saccharalis (F.), and it is moving into rice- and sugarcane-growing areas of east Texas and Louisiana. While a number of alternative weed and crop hosts have been reported, the extent to which they might support Mexican rice borer populations is unknown. This study involved choice assays that compared oviposition preference for and larval infestations of five mature graminaceous weed species. Levels of infestation between sugarcane and corn, Zea mays L., crop hosts and between corn and sorghum, Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench, were also assessed. We determined that the average number of larval entry holes in sudangrass stems was ≥2.5-fold more than for any of the other four weed host plants, that corn had ≥5.9-fold more larval entry holes than sorghum and ≥8.2-fold more than sugarcane. Greater oviposition and infestation of one non-crop host over another was not related to numbers of stems per plant, but was associated with the greater stem diameter and abundance of dry leaf tissue found in Sudangrass, Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench ssp. drummondi (Nees ex Steud.) de Wet & Harlan, johnsongrass, S. halepense (L.) and barnyardgrass, Echinochloa crus-galli (L.) P. Beauv.; relative to the other weed species in this study. In terms of the crop plants, stalk diameter and quantity of dry leaf tissue were not associated with numbers of eggs or larval entry holes in the choice assays between corn and sorghum, and between sugarcane and corn. While corn has been known as a host of the Mexican rice borer for at least 84 yr, its role in area-wide population dynamics and control efforts has likely been greatly underestimated.