The biological control agent Aphthona nigriscutis Foudras (Chrysomelidae) established in Fremont County, WY since 1992 on leafy spurge was released into a mixed stand a native plant Euphorbia robusta Engelm. During host range testing, E. robusta was a likely host for A. nigriscutis under laboratory conditions. In 1999, A. nigriscutis was observed feeding on both E. esula and 31 of 36 E. robusta plants present on about 2 ha (5 ac) where the visually estimated E. esula canopy cover was 50%. By August 2001, E. esula cover had declined to less than 5% and E. robusta plants had increased to 450 plants with 26 (5.8%) showing feeding damage. In 2006 Euphorbia esula ground cover was 2% and of 598 E. robusta plants originally marked, 391 could be located and four of these had damage consistent with A. nigriscutis feeding. For the 8-yr period, E. esula ground cover was inversely correlated to E. robusta density and positively correlated to A. nigriscutis feeding damage on E. robusta. This study shows that while also acceptable to A. nigriscutis in the field, feeding on E. robusta declined with declining densities of the target weed while E. robusta population densities increased. It seems that some risk in this regard is acceptable in light of the damage from the target weed and the generally high level of selectivity provided by biological control agents.
Nomenclature: Leafy spurge, Euphorbia esula L. EPHES; Apthona nigriscutis Foudras