Invasive Species Compendium

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Datasheet

Scyphophorus acupunctatus
(agave weevil)

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Datasheet

Scyphophorus acupunctatus (agave weevil)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 29 March 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Natural Enemy
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Scyphophorus acupunctatus
  • Preferred Common Name
  • agave weevil
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Arthropoda
  •       Subphylum: Uniramia
  •         Class: Insecta

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Scyphophorus acupunctatus (agave weevil); adult, lateral view. Yucca canes; August, 2007
TitleAdult
CaptionScyphophorus acupunctatus (agave weevil); adult, lateral view. Yucca canes; August, 2007
Copyright©Ken Walker - 2007 - CC BY 3.0 AU
Scyphophorus acupunctatus (agave weevil); adult, lateral view. Yucca canes; August, 2007
AdultScyphophorus acupunctatus (agave weevil); adult, lateral view. Yucca canes; August, 2007©Ken Walker - 2007 - CC BY 3.0 AU
Scyphophorus acupunctatus (agave weevil); adult, lateral view of head and rostrum. Yucca canes, August, 2007
TitleAdult
CaptionScyphophorus acupunctatus (agave weevil); adult, lateral view of head and rostrum. Yucca canes, August, 2007
Copyright©Ken Walker - 2007 - CC BY 3.0 AU
Scyphophorus acupunctatus (agave weevil); adult, lateral view of head and rostrum. Yucca canes, August, 2007
AdultScyphophorus acupunctatus (agave weevil); adult, lateral view of head and rostrum. Yucca canes, August, 2007©Ken Walker - 2007 - CC BY 3.0 AU
Scyphophorus acupunctatus (agave weevil); adult, dorsal view of elytra Yucca canes; August, 2007
TitleAdult
CaptionScyphophorus acupunctatus (agave weevil); adult, dorsal view of elytra Yucca canes; August, 2007
Copyright©Ken Walker - 2007 - CC BY 3.0 AU
Scyphophorus acupunctatus (agave weevil); adult, dorsal view of elytra Yucca canes; August, 2007
AdultScyphophorus acupunctatus (agave weevil); adult, dorsal view of elytra Yucca canes; August, 2007©Ken Walker - 2007 - CC BY 3.0 AU

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Scyphophorus acupunctatus Gyllenhal, 1838

Preferred Common Name

  • agave weevil

Other Scientific Names

  • Rhynchophorus asperulus Le Conte, 1857
  • Scyphophorus anthracinus Gyllenhal, 1838
  • Scyphophorus interstitialis Gyllenhal, 1838
  • Scyphophorus robustior Horn, 1873

International Common Names

  • English: sisal borer, Mexican; sisal weevil
  • Spanish: max del henequen

Local Common Names

  • Germany: Bohrer, Mexikanischer Sisal-
  • Netherlands: Agavesnuitkever
  • Spain: max del henequen (Mexico)

EPPO code

  • SCYPIN (Scyphophorus acupunctatus)

Taxonomic Tree

Top of page
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Arthropoda
  •             Subphylum: Uniramia
  •                 Class: Insecta
  •                     Order: Coleoptera
  •                         Family: Dryophthoridae
  •                             Genus: Scyphophorus
  •                                 Species: Scyphophorus acupunctatus

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top of page The genus Scyphophorus was described by Schoenherr in 1838 and the type species is S. acupunctatus by original designation. S. acupunctatus was described from Mexico by Gyllenhal (in Schoenherr) in 1838. Vaurie (1971) reviewed the genus and listed common synonyms. The differences among the types of these synonyms illustrate the variability found among the 1000 or more specimens examined by Vaurie (1971). Thus, the pronotum may be subquadrate and the elytral intervals flat; or the pronotum distinctly longer than wide and the elytral intervals convex; body surface may be opaque or shining; the punctures small or rather coarse; colour may be reddish or black or a combination of both. No geographic variation was noted in any of these characters (Vaurie, 1971). Cotton (1924) and Anderson (1948) provided a generic key to larvae of the Rhynchophorinae, including Scyphophorus. There are only two species in the New World genus Scyphophorus, S. acupunctatus and S. yuccae (Horn, 1873).

Description

Top of page Eggs

The egg is a more or less regular ovoid, with only a slight difference in curvature at both ends; 1.6-1.75 mm in length and 0.7 mm in width; creamy-white with a thin, smooth chorion (Harris, 1936).

Larvae

The larva was described and drawn in lateral view by Cotton (1924) and Harris (1936), and described by Anderson (1948).

The larva is creamy-white with yellow shiny pronotal plate. Body is moderately large, robust, strongly thickened through abdominal segments 4 and 5; body length up to 18 mm, maximum width 9 mm. Head dark or chestnut brown with convergent, non-pigmented stripes dorsally; free, slightly longer than broad, oval posteriorly; endocarina absent; head width 4.0-4.5 mm; mandibles dark brown or black. Legs absent. Typical abdominal segments with 3 dorsal folds. Asperities inconspicuous. Spiracles on abdominal segments distinct. Posterior margin of abdominal segment 9 with a pair of projections which are longer than broad; each projection bearing 3 elongate setae.

Pupae

The pupa was very briefly described by Dugès (1886). It was also described and drawn in the ventral view by Harris (1936). It is from 15-19 mm in length. It is at first pale yellow, but darkens in colour as the black pigment of the developing weevil becomes visible through the skin.

Adults

Black and or/reddish, fully winged, without scales or dorsal setae, rather flattened dorsally. Antennae inserted at base of rostrum, funicle with segment 2 subequal in length to 3, terminal segment twice as wide as long, club corneous, basal segment with apex much wider than base, spongy apical part retracted, concave, not visible in lateral view. Rostrum almost straight, sinuate ventrally at base, in males broadly sulcate and bicarinate ventrally. Eyes very large, elongate, touching below. Pronotum rather oblong, but shape somewhat variable, subquadrate (then elytral interstices flat) or distinctly longer than wide (then elytral interstices convex), usually finely punctate, surface opaque or shining. Scutellum small, scarcely wider than base of sutural interval. Elytra with bases broadly emarginate, elytral interstices very finely punctate. Procoxae narrowly to moderately separated, separation narrower than rostral apex, mesocoxae separated by their diameter. Femora clavate with inner edge emarginate subapically; tibiae with inner edge straight, outer apices strongly bidentate, males with double rows of tibial setae, longer and denser than those of females, in latter, protibiae with much longer and more abundant hairs; tarsi with third segment dilated, bilobed, glabrous ventrally except for uniform, dense fringe of yellow, erect setae along apical border. Prosternal process overlapping mesosternum, mesepimera angulate anteriorly, often with irregular border, metasternum flat or gently tumid anteriorly, metepisterna at apical third distinctly narrower than greatest width of mesofemora, scarcely narrowed posteriorly. Abdomen with basal sternite in males with median, basal, sparsely pubescent depression. Body length 9-19 mm

Distribution

Top of page Both the genus Agave and S. acupunctatus originated in the New World (Sellers, 1951). However, Agave species have been introduced into many arid and tropical regions as a crop for the production of sisal, and S. acupunctatus appears to have successfully tracked these introductions. Its range is now coincident with the plant's extended range (Waring and Smith, 1986).

S. acupunctatus was first recorded outside the New World in Tanzania in 1914 (Harris, 1936). It subsequently appeared in Java in 1916 (Kalshoven, 1951, 1981). In Tanzania, it is recorded as far west as Lambeni, but is most common in the coastal belt from Moa to the Pangani River. It is least prevalent in estates at the foot of the Usambara Mountains, where the soil is of a red lateritic type, and termites are numerous, actively destroying sisal stumps (Harris, 1936).

S. acupunctatus was first found in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA, by Muir in 1918, probably as an introduction with ornamental century plants. In Hawaii, the species is found only on the island of Oahu, where it can be locally abundant around Honolulu, boring in stems and leaves of sisal, sometimes killing the plants.

S. acupunctatus was first found in Java on a fibre plantation near Kediri, in 1916, again probably imported with plant material from North America where this species is endemic. From Java it was introduced to Sumatra's east coast and Aceh, where it was found in 1925 (Kalshoven, 1981).

S. acupunctatus was recorded for the first time in South Africa during 1975, a severe outbreak occurring in the Eastern Transvaal near Komatipoort on A. sisalina (Verbeek, 1976; Annecke and Moran, 1982).

S. acupunctatus was intercepted on Yucca originating from Guatemala in the Netherlands in 1980 (Rossem et al., 1981).

Distribution Table

Top of page

The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Asia

IndonesiaPresentEPPO, 2014
-JavaPresentKalshoven, 1951; EPPO, 2014
-KalimantanPresentVaurie, 1971; EPPO, 2014
-SumatraPresentKalshoven, 1951; EPPO, 2014
IsraelPresentCABI/EPPO, 2014
Saudi ArabiaPresentNHM, 1997; EPPO, 2014

Africa

KenyaPresentLock, 1958; EPPO, 2014
South AfricaPresentSmith et al., 2012; EPPO, 2014
Spain
-Canary IslandsPresentCABI/EPPO, 2014
TanzaniaPresentHopkinson and Materu, 1970a; Schwenke, 1934; Harris, 1934; Harris, 1936; Harris, 1943; Lock, 1958; Wienik, 1967; Materu and Hopkinson, 1969; EPPO, 2014

North America

MexicoPresentHalffter, 1957; Custodio, 1944; Vaurie, 1971; Ramirez, 1978; Ramirez, 1979; O'Brien and Wibmer, 1982; Ramirez, 1984; Aquino et al., 2014; EPPO, 2014
USARestricted distributionCABI/EPPO, 2014; EPPO, 2014
-ArizonaPresentVaurie, 1971; O'Brien and Wibmer, 1982; Waring and Smith, 1986; EPPO, 2014
-ArkansasPresentVaurie, 1971; O'Brien and Wibmer, 1982; EPPO, 2014
-CaliforniaPresentVaurie, 1971; O'Brien and Wibmer, 1982; CABI/EPPO, 2014; EPPO, 2014
-ColoradoPresentVaurie, 1971; O'Brien and Wibmer, 1982; EPPO, 2014
-FloridaPresentVaurie, 1971; O'Brien and Wibmer, 1982; Waring and Smith, 1986; EPPO, 2014
-GeorgiaPresentVaurie, 1971; O'Brien and Wibmer, 1982; EPPO, 2014
-HawaiiPresentVaurie, 1941; Zimmerman, 1941; EPPO, 2014
-KansasPresentVaurie, 1971; O'Brien and Wibmer, 1982; EPPO, 2014
-NevadaPresentUSDA, 1976; EPPO, 2014
-New MexicoPresentVaurie, 1971; O'Brien and Wibmer, 1982; EPPO, 2014
-TexasPresentVaurie, 1971; O'Brien and Wibmer, 1982; EPPO, 2014

Central America and Caribbean

BelizePresentO'Brien and Wibmer, 1982; EPPO, 2014
Cayman IslandsPresentNHM, 1967; EPPO, 2014
Costa RicaPresentO'Brien and Wibmer, 1982; EPPO, 2014
CubaPresentBruner, 1975; EPPO, 2014
CuraçaoPresentBallou, 1920
Dominican RepublicPresentO' Brien & Wibmer, 1982; EPPO, 2014
El SalvadorPresentO'Brien and Wibmer, 1982; EPPO, 2014
GuatemalaPresentRossem et al., 1981; O'Brien and Wibmer, 1982; EPPO, 2014
HaitiPresentBallou, 1920; Vaurie, 1971; EPPO, 2014
HondurasPresentO'Brien and Wibmer, 1982; EPPO, 2014
JamaicaPresentGowdey, 1923; Vaurie, 1971; O'Brien and Wibmer, 1982; EPPO, 2014
Netherlands AntillesPresentEPPO, 2014
NicaraguaPresentO'Brien and Wibmer, 1982; EPPO, 2014
Puerto RicoPresentSetliff and Anderson, 2011
United States Virgin IslandsPresentEPPO, 2014

South America

ArgentinaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2014
BrazilPresentVaurie, 1971; Wibmer and O'Brien, 1986; EPPO, 2014
ColombiaPresentVaurie, 1971; Wibmer and O'Brien, 1986; EPPO, 2014
VenezuelaPresentVaurie, 1971; Wibmer and O'Brien, 1986; EPPO, 2014

Europe

CyprusWidespreadCABI/EPPO, 2014; EPPO, 2014
FrancePresent, few occurrencesCABI/EPPO, 2014; EPPO, 2014
-CorsicaPresentEPPO, 2014
ItalyPresent, few occurrencesCABI/EPPO, 2014; EPPO, 2014
-Italy (mainland)PresentCABI/EPPO, 2014
-SicilyPresentCABI/EPPO, 2014; EPPO, 2014
NetherlandsAbsent, intercepted onlyRossem et al., 1981; EPPO, 2014
PortugalPresentCABI/EPPO, 2014
SpainRestricted distributionCABI/EPPO, 2014; EPPO, 2014
UKPresentCABI/EPPO, 2014

Oceania

AustraliaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2014; EPPO, 2014
-QueenslandAbsent, intercepted onlyVaurie, 1971; EPPO, 2014
-South AustraliaPresentCABI/EPPO, 2014
FijiPresentCABI/EPPO, 2014
New ZealandPresentCABI/EPPO, 2014

Hosts/Species Affected

Top of page S. acupunctatus is most common on century plants of the genera Agave and Furcraea, although it has also been recorded on Yucca. Specimens at Samsula, Florida, USA, were first observed on Y. pendula glauca plants imported from Santa Ana, California. Subsequent collections were taken from Y. aloifolia, Y. elephantipes and A. americana (Woodruff and Pierce, 1973). Vaurie (1971) listed the following hosts: Agave mexicana, A. cubensis, A. americana, A. atrovirens, A. attenuata, A. ferdinandiregis, A. heteracantha (as lechequilla), A. sisalana (sisal), A. shawii, Furcraea tuberosa and Y. glauca. Anderson (1948) listed Agave and Dasylirion and the Californian Department of Agriculture (1959) reported S. acupunctatus as a pest of the dragon tree, Dracaena draco, an ornamental member of the Liliaceae introduced from the Canary Islands.

In Curacao, both adults and larvae are found in large numbers in the stem and leaf bases of A. frankeera plants that have not yet formed a flower pole. They are also found attacking A. vivipara, occurring only in the 'bull end' of the flower pole; A. sisalana does not appear to be attacked (Ballou, 1920).

According to Harris (1936), A. amaniensis and F. gigantea (Mauritius hemp), growing in small plots on sisal plantations, particularly near the coast of Tanzania, are attacked severely and at Amani (2,500 to 3,000 feet higher), injury to A. sisalana and A. amaniensis is negligible, damage to A. ingens is more noticeable, whereas F. gigantea is disfigured by large holes in nearly all the leaves.

S. acupunctatus has been reported in the Morogoro area, Tanzania, mainly feeding on F. gigantea. It also occurred there on A. franzosinni, A. ingens and other garden species, but not in plantations of sisal, or plots of the highly susceptible A. amoniensis (Harris, 1943).

Sellers (1951) noted the following host plants for S. acupunctatus: A. shawii (California); A. deserti (California) and A. atrovirens (Mexico).

In Arizona, USA, populations were found on A. americana before flowering, whereas A. palmeri was colonized only after flowering. The weevil was also found in native A. schottii and A. parryi (Waring and Smith, 1986).

Y. elephantipes was introduced into Florida, USA, as a safe substitute for the native Y. aloifolia, which has dangerous needle-tipped leaves, but it is still only occasionally used in landscaping. In 1973, larvae were found boring into the roots and stems of this and other yuccas and agaves (Morton and Dawling, 1992).

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Growth Stages

Top of page Vegetative growing stage

Symptoms

Top of page Adults bore into leaves of young plants or plants with weak fibres, and if perforated sisal hearts are infected by fungi, the central shoot becomes red and soft, producing conditions suitable for development of the larvae, which die quickly in the absence of moisture. Plants over 2 years old are not generally perforated, and only leaves too small to cut are damaged. Suckers that have been too deeply planted may begin to rot at the base and weevils are then attracted to them as secondary pests. Weevil attack on healthy leaves too strong to penetrate produces a mottled area of dead epidermis approximately 20 cm from the leaf base; this damage is only distinguishable from that caused by friction because it occurs before the leaf has unfolded (Harris, 1934).

The most obvious symptoms are leaf holes 1 cm in diameter, and where these are observed on mature leaves, six or seven leaves on the same plant are usually also affected. The younger the leaf, the nearer the hole is to the tip. These are the result of the weevil boring into hearts of the plants under 2 years old when the young leaves are still unfolded. When plants are healthy, injury does not develop further, but when growth is not sufficiently vigorous around the perforations, entrance of rot-causing organisms can occur. These infect the central shoot, which becomes red and soft, and the plant dies. Large suckers used for planting are more liable to serious injury than bulbils, which are damaged by the weevil penetrating between the bases of the outer leaves into the bulb, or small suckers with newly cut bases, which also attract feeding. Deep planting and injury to the leaf bases are, however, the primary causes of the death of the plants in many cases, the weevil acting only as a secondary pest. Large, healthy sisal plants are sometimes attacked by the adults when the leaves are still part of the heart or central shoot. When cut, the leaves are found to have areas of brown, dried-out epidermis approximately 20 cm from the base. This causes discoloration of the fibres, but the actual damage to them is not considerable. This type of injury is exceptional in that it appears to depend on the population density of the weevils and not on the health of the plants (Harris, 1936).

In Tanzania, S. acupunctatus was originally recorded as ovipositing in the hearts of sisal plants, in which the resulting larvae fed so that the leaves, when unfolded, appeared as if riddled by bullets. In 1931, a new form of injury was observed in the Pangani district. Innumerable fine holes, as if made with a needle, occurred in the outer heart leaves on the outer surface of the leaf-edge approximately 5 cm from the base. The injury often becomes noticeable only after 1-2 years, when the large percentage of discolored fibres attracts attention (Schwencke, 1934).

List of Symptoms/Signs

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SignLife StagesType
Leaves / external feeding
Leaves / necrotic areas
Stems / internal discoloration
Stems / internal feeding
Stems / internal red necrosis
Stems / mould growth on lesion

Biology and Ecology

Top of page S. acupunctatus can live at elevations as high as 3,000 feet in Tanzania and breeds throughout the year, multiplying rapidly during the rains. Eggs are laid and develop only in very young or senescing sisal tissues, or in tissues weakened by disease. The stems of plants that have flower poles are the only important breeding locations. In Tanzania, the life cycle from egg to adult is completed in approximately 2 months, the pupal stage occupying 10-14 days (Harris, 1934).

Eggs are laid in batches of two to six at a time in bases of young bulbils or suckers, or in the hole made by the adult weevil in the central shoot of a larger plant. Usually only one or two larvae develop, but plants in which the flower pole has been cut or dead stumps generally support more larvae. Eggs survive only if there is a certain amount of moisture, and larvae also die if exposed to dry conditions. Larvae emerging from eggs laid in perforated central shoots make small channels by eating out the soft epidermal layers of two closely pressed leaves, and thus move away from the hole made by the adult itself. This channel increases in diameter with larval growth and follows an erratic course. Where general infection of the shoot has not taken place, larvae do not appear to wander far from the original hole, but return later to complete the work of the adult in boring right through the shoot, and pupate in the hole thus made. Larvae in the base of a young plant or in a larger plant where the heart has died bore irregular channels through the tissues until their development is complete. In Tanzania, egg, larval and pupal stages last 3-4, 28-55 and 19-36 days, respectively; the larvae bore through the central shoot or make irregular tunnels through the tissues until full-grown, and pupate in cocoons made from fibre and leaf debris, cemented together lightly on the inside. Larvae and pupae both develop most rapidly during the rainy season. The adult female takes a minimum period of 25 days after emerging to reach sexual maturity, so that 11 weeks are needed to complete the life cycle resulting in the possibility of 4 generations a year. Three females produced on average 62 eggs each over a period of 3 months (Harris, 1936).

There is some evidence that relatively dry seasons are also periods of increased weevil activity, but low average rainfall is not in itself conducive to weevil attack (Harris, 1936).

Waring and Smith (1986) observed that sisal fibres from agave leaves were typically incorporated into cocoons, and that most cocoons were found in leaf bases where sisal is readily available to larvae. According to Kalshoven (1981), the cocoon is approximately 2.5 cm in length and sometimes covered with clay-like material. Development in Indonesia takes 2 to 3 months in the lowlands.

Investigations undertaken in Tanzania during 1933 showed that living agave plants are attacked only for feeding, oviposition being confined to dead tissues such as those of cut stems split open to facilitate drying before burning (Schwencke, 1934).

According to Custodio (1944), the eggs of S. acupunctatus are laid on the bracts of leaves and the larvae pupate in their galleries.

In Kenya, egg, larval, prepupal and pupal stages last 3-5, 21-58, 4-10 and 7-23 days, respectively, and complete development requires 50-90 days. Females lay 25-50 eggs each in a moist environment over 6 months, at a rate of approximately two a week (Lock, 1958).

In Yucatan, Mexico, adults appear in agave plantations with the advent of cold weather in November and December. Mating occurs at the end of March or early in April, oviposition taking place 15 to 20 days later. Incubation requires 39 to 40 days, with larvae emerging and feeding from May to July. A cocoon is spun before pupation (August to October), and the adults appear in November. There is thus only one generation a year. The climate of Yucatan is hot and dry with limited rainfall. The dry season lasts from October to May, with the hottest months being March and April, just prior to the rains. The rainy season is thus occupied by the immature stages, whereas the 6 months of dry weather are spent as adults (Harris, 1936).

Laboratory studies concerning the biology of S. acupunctatus performed in Mexico during 1976 (25(C and 65-85% RH) revealed that the life cycle lasted 68-73 days. Of 174 larvae, only 9 completed their development to the adult stage. In 1977, when rearing was carried out at 27(C and 62-69% RH, only 8 adults were obtained from 124 larvae, the average length of the life cycle being 36 days (Ramirez, 1978).

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Dactylosternum subdepressum Predator Tanzania sisal
Hololepta yucateca Predator Larvae
Morion georgiae Predator Larvae
Plaesius javanus Predator Tanzania sisal

Notes on Natural Enemies

Top of page There are no definite observations on natural enemies of S. acupunctatus larvae in Tanzania. Ritchie (1923) recorded the predatory histerid beetles Hololepta scissoma, Atholus erichsoni and Placodes ebeninus as being associated with rotting sisal stumps infested by S. acupunctatus.

The carabid beetle Morion georgiae and histerid beetle Hololepta yucateca were recorded as predators of larvae in Mexico, but their role as biological control agents has not been thoroughly evaluated (Halffter, 1957).

Sellers (1957) concluded that the sisal weevil was not a suitable target for biological control.

Impact

Top of page S. acupunctatus is the most important pest of cultivated agaves. It is considered a pest because it creates conditions that cause cultivated and ornamental agaves to die before they bloom or can be harvested (Waring and Smith, 1986). The weevil has been a major problem in the tequila and henequen (A. fourcroydes) industries of Mexico (Woodruff and Pierce, 1973); the sisal (A. sisalana) industry of Africa and Indonesia (Clinton and Peregrine, 1963; Lock, 1969); and in the nursery businesses and landscapes of the south-western United States, where the plant is cultured as an ornamental (Pott, 1976).

Agave decline, a fatal condition occurring in ornamental agaves of south-western USA, is associated with larval infestations of S. acupunctatus. Besides causing mechanical damage and consuming stored resources, larvae may be involved in symbiotic relationships with microorganisms that break down plant tissues (Waring and Smith, 1986). The fungal pathogen Aspergillus niger induces rotting in agaves that have been attacked by S. acupunctatus (Wallace and Diekmahns, 1952; Clinton and Peregrine, 1963). Waring and Smith (1986) showed that S. acupunctatus is the primary colonizer species and has a role in initiating stem and leaf rots.

S. acupunctatus is one of the principal insect pests of A. fourcroydes (fibre hemp or henequen) which is widely grown in Mexico. It feeds on all parts of the plant, although it is most common in the central leaves, and severe infestation destroys the fibres and often the whole plant (Custudio, 1944; Halffter, 1957). Yield losses of 40% have been reported in northern Yucatan, Mexico (Ramirez, 1984).

In Tanzania, sisal plants suffering from stem or bole rot, which is normally caused by A. niger, are often heavily infested with S. acupunctatus. Wienik (1967) showed that A. niger fungal spores are ingested by adult weevils, and that they are still viable and pathogenic after passing through the alimentary canal of the insect. Although the weevil cannot be held primarily responsible for spreading bole rot, it may aid its spread.

According to Kalshoven (1981), S. acupunctatus can be very destructive in agave nurseries in Indonesia. After World War I, the pest was very serious on Sumatra's east coast because of inadequate maintenance of plantations.

Detection and Inspection

Top of page Examine leaves of Agave, Furcraea and Yucca plants for 1 cm diameter holes. Six or seven leaves on the same plant similarly affected is the result of adult feeding.

Cut open stems and leaf bases of young or weakened Agave, Furcraea and Yucca plants and look for black-coloured weevils, 9-19 mm in length and creamy white, or legless larvae with brown heads (up to 18 mm in length). Larvae can be specifically searched for by cutting open the stem base as they bore into the tender, subterranean tissues.

Leaves of large, healthy sisal plants, when the heart of the central shoot is exposed, may show areas of brown, dried out epidermis approximately 20 cm from the base, and discoloration of the fibres.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page S. yuccae is similar to S. acupunctatus, but differs in the antennal club, which has a spongy truncated apex, somewhat carinate, visible in lateral view as a narrow line. The scutellum is larger, longer, twice as wide as the base of the sutural interstice, and elytra with interstices are deeply punctate in a single line with apices obliquely retracted to suture.

Prevention and Control

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Cultural Control

The insect is commonly introduced into new areas with planting material, so such material should only be obtained from localities where S. acupunctatus does not occur (Ballou, 1920).

Plants that have finished flowering are a potential source of infestation, and old stumps provide a breeding ground for at least 8 months. Consequently, the only effective control is to burn all residues on land recently cleared of old sisal before new plantings are made. Where the weevils are numerous, plants should be planted early, so that they may be well-rooted before the dry season, and they should not be set too deeply with only vigorous young suckers being used. Split stumps laid face downwards make good traps if they are examined for weevils every second day. They must be burnt within 10 weeks of the first cutting, or they will develop into breeding locations. Workers should be employed to trap and collect weevils and destroy potential breeding spots at all times, particularly just before, and during, the rainy season (Harris, 1934).


Chemical Control

Planting material dipped in dimethoate solution before planting retained concentrations toxic to weevils for a period of 10 weeks.

Effects of insecticide treatments on damage in sisal bulbil nurseries located in Tanzania were studied by Hopkinson and Materu (1970b). Isobenzan gave the best results. To concentrate the insecticide at the base of the plant, it should be applied to the centre of each plant individually, or as a spray along the row. Immersing bulbils in a solution of dimethoate before planting gave control for 10 weeks, but this method is of little benefit as most weevil damage usually occurs in the second rainy season after planting. As levels of infestation in these tests was high only in small isolated nurseries, it was concluded that the application of insecticides was rarely justified in estate practice.

Spraying split-bole traps with diazinon did not reduce the number of weevils captured.

In Yucatan, Mexico, the bases of healthy leaves attracted adults and these were used to monitor population dynamics (Ramirez, 1984). Populations were large in the wet season (June-October) and population size was statistically correlated with rainfall.

References

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Anderson WH, 1948. Larvae of some genera of Calendrinae (= Rhynchophorinae) and Stromboscerinae. Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 41:413-437.

Annecke DP; Moran VC, 1982. Insects and mites of cultivated plants in South Africa. Durban, South Africa: Butterworths.

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