Neomusotima conspurcatalis Warren was first released in Florida as a weed biological control agent against Old World climbing fern in 2008, and readily established large field populations. A related biocontrol agent, Austromusotima camptozonale, had previously failed to establish despite several years of releases. Life history studies were conducted to determine whether aspects of the reproductive biology of N. conspurcatalis might account for these different outcomes. At 26.5°C, development from egg to adult averaged 22.2 ± 0.1 d, with 75% of larvae emerging as adults. The sex ratio averaged 1:0.8 (♂:♀), with both sexes emerging at the same time. Female moths typically mated once, on the first night after emergence, and began oviposition the next night. Females laid half their eggs on the first night and lived an average of 10.7 ± 0.8 d. Individual females maintained in cages with a male-biased sex ratio (3♂:1♀) produced significantly more larvae over their lifetime (140 ± 6.6 larvae) than individual females maintained at a ratio of 1♂:1♀ (111 ± 9.1 larvae). Sexual selection, either through ‘male-male competition’ or ‘female choice’ was likely responsible for this result, because there were no significant differences in mating frequency, duration of ovipositional period or female longevity to otherwise explain the difference. Two-fold greater lifetime reproductive output (average 127 ± 6.3 larvae) and deposition of half this output on the first night of oviposition, likely contributed to rapid field establishment of N. conspurcatalis compared with A. camptozonale.
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Vol. 41 • No. 2