The annual herb, Parthenium hysterophorus L. (Asteraceae: Heliantheae) is a severe terrestrial invader globally. Infestations reduce crop yield, limit available grazing, hinder conservation efforts, and affect human and animal health in Africa, Asia and Australia, and on associated islands. Due to the impact and threat of further invasion of P. hysterophorus, a biological control (biocontrol) programme was initiated in 2003 in South Africa. This review discusses the research and implementation activities undertaken on the insect agents from 2011 to 2020. During this period, the stem-boring weevil Listronotus setosipennis Hustache (Coleoptera: Curculionidae), leaf-feeding beetle Zygogramma bicolorata Pallister (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) and seed-feeding weevil Smicronyx lutulentus Dietz (Coleoptera: Curculionidae), were found to be host specific and approved for release. Releases of mass-reared insect agents have been concentrated particularly in north-eastern South Africa, where P. hysterophorus infestations are most prolific. Post-release monitoring studies indicated localised establishment and impact of L. setosipennis and S. lutulentus. Listronotus setosipennis persisted through severe drought conditions, and although it disperses slowly, larval feeding is structurally damaging. Establishment of S. lutulentus is improving, reducing seed production where it is established. Zygogramma bicolorata resulted in defoliation at a few sites, but establishment has been poor and the beetle has been absent since 2019. Although a combination of fungal and insect agents were demonstrated to reduce P. hysterophorus, additional natural enemies could improve control. Consequently, the stem-galling moth Epiblema strenuana Walker (Lepidoptera: Tortricidae) and root-crown boring moth Carmenta sp. nr. ithacae (Beutenmüller) (Lepidoptera: Sesiidae) remain under evaluation. The management of P. hysterophorus in South Africa has been guided by the development of a national strategy, which incorporates multiple management methods, including biocontrol. International collaborations have intensified as a growing number of countries begin to utilize biocontrol to manage P. hysterophorus. Despite the progress towards biocontrol of P. hysterophorus during this period, increased utilisation of approved agents and the introduction of additional agents are necessary to achieve greater control.
Vol. 29 • No. 3
Vol. 29 • No. 3