Parthenium (Parthenium hysterophorus L.), a major weed causing economic, environmental, and human and animal health problems in Australia and several countries in Asia, Africa, and the Pacific, has been a target for biological control in Australia since the mid-1970s. Nine species of insects and two rust fungi have been introduced as biological control agents into Australia. These include Carmenta sp. nr ithacae, a root feeding agent from Mexico. The larvae of C. sp. nr ithacae bore through the stem-base into the root where they feed on the cortical tissue of the taproot. During 1998–2002, 2,816 larval-infested plants and 387 adults were released at 31 sites across Queensland, Australia. Evidence of field establishment was first observed in two of the release sites in central Queensland in 2004. Annual surveys at these sites and nonrelease sites during 2006–2011 showed wide variations in the incidence and abundance of C. sp. nr ithacae between years and sites. Surveys at three of the nine release sites in northern Queensland and 16 of the 22 release sites in central Queensland confirmed the field establishment of C. sp. nr ithacae in four release sites and four nonrelease sites, all in central Queensland. No field establishment was evident in the inland region or in northern Queensland. A CLIMEX model based on the native range distribution of C. sp. nr ithacae predicts that areas east of the dividing range along the coast are more suitable for field establishment than inland areas. Future efforts to redistribute this agent should be restricted to areas identified as climatically favorable by the CLIMEX model.
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Vol. 41 • No. 2