Biological control (biocontrol) against invasive macrophytes is one of the longest standing programmes in South Africa, initiated in the 1970s against water hyacinth, Pontederia crassipes Mart. (Pontederiaceae). Since then, 15 agent species (13 insects, one mite and one pathogen) have been released against six weeds, most of which are floating macrophytes, with excellent levels of success. The release of the water hyacinth planthopper Megamelus scutellaris Berg (Hemiptera: Delphacidae) in particular, has improved biocontrol prospects for water hyacinth since 2018. In the last decade, however, a new suite of submerged and rooted emergent invasive macrophytes has been targeted. The first release against a submerged macrophyte in South Africa, and the first release against Brazilian waterweed, Egeria densa Planch. (Hydrocharitaceae), anywhere in the world, was achieved with the release of a leafmining fly, Hydrellia egeriae Rodrigues-Júnior, Mathis & Hauser (Diptera: Ephydridae). Yellow flag, Iris pseudacorus L. (Iridaceae) and Mexican waterlily, Nymphaea mexicana Zucc. (Nymphaeaceae), have also been targeted for biocontrol for the first time worldwide, and are in the early stages of agent development. Post-release evaluations, long term monitoring and controlled experiments have highlighted the need for a more holistic approach to managing aquatic invasive plants in South Africa, whose presence is largely driven by eutrophication, resulting in regime shifts between floating and submerged invaded states.
Vol. 29 • No. 3
Vol. 29 • No. 3