Insect herbivores associated with Lycium ferocissimum (Solanaceae) in South Africa and their potential as biological control agents in Australia.
Lycium ferocissimum Miers (Solanaceae) is an indigenous shrub in South Africa but has become invasive in several countries including Australia, where chemical and mechanical control methods have proved costly and unsustainable. In Australia, biological control is being considered as a management option, but the herbivorous insects associated with the plant in its native range are not well known. The aim of this study was to survey the phytophagous insects associated with L. ferocissimum in South Africa and prioritise promising biological control agents. In South Africa, the plant occurs in two geographically distinct areas, the Eastern and Western Cape provinces. Surveys for phytophagous insects on L. ferocissimum were carried out repeatedly over a two-year period in these two regions. The number of insect species found in the Eastern Cape Province (55) was higher than that in the Western Cape Province (41), but insect diversity based on Shannon indices was highest in the Western Cape Province. Indicator species analysis revealed eight insect herbivore species driving the differences in the herbivore communities between the two provinces. Based on insect distribution, abundance, feeding preference and available literature, three species were prioritised as potential biological control agents. These include the leaf-chewing beetles Cassida distinguenda Spaeth (Chrysomelidae) and Cleta eckloni Mulsant (Coccinellidae) and the leaf-mining weevil Neoplatygaster serietuberculata Gyllenhal (Curculionidae).