Biology and field host range of Ceutorhynchus cardariae, a potential biological control agent for Lepidium draba.
Lepidium draba (Brassicaceae) is a clonal herb, originating from Eurasia, which is invasive in North America. A classical biological control project was initiated in 2001, and the gall-forming weevil Ceutorhynchus cardariae was prioritized as a candidate agent. We studied its biology and field host range between 2003 and 2014 in the laboratory and a common garden in Switzerland and in the field in Romania. Ceutorhynchus cardariae is a univoltine to bivoltine species. In Switzerland, oviposition usually started at the beginning of March and can occur at temperatures as low as 2.5°C. Galls are formed on stems, leaf stalks and midribs of L. draba rosettes and bolting plants. Gall size increased with an increasing number of larvae per gall. The three larval instars feed inside the galls and leave the plant to pupate in the soil once mature. In Switzerland, development from egg to adult took about 12 weeks in spring. Adults emerged from May to July. After a brief feeding period, adults aestivate. From late summer, feeding recommenced and females may oviposit, forming a partial second generation. Eggs and all larval instars can be found in galls throughout winter. The rate of larval ectoparasitism reached 78%, while endoparasitism was low with a maximum of 2.3%. Lepidium draba populations differed in their suitability for development (number of C. cardariae produced), indicating that effectiveness of C. cardariae - in case released - may be variable. In the field, we observed that gall formation by C. cardariae can severely stunt or even kill shoots. Investigations on the field host range of C. cardariae indicated that only the closely related Lepidium campestre may act as an alternative host for the weevil in Europe. Host-specificity tests are underway to determine its environmental safety before field release in North America is being considered.