Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes (Martius) Solms-Laubach) is a non-native, invasive floating aquatic weed in the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta and associated river watersheds of northern California. Prior releases of biological control agents have not led to sustained control. The South American planthopper, Megamelus scutellaris Berg, 1883, permitted and released first in the southeastern U.S., was released at three sites in this region from 2011 to 2013, leading to establishment at one site in a pond off Willow Creek in Folsom in the American River watershed. Planthopper populations consisting of nymphs (two-thirds or more of total counts) peaked in late summer each year between 2013 and 2015, reaching densities of six to nine planthoppers per plant by 2015. Megamelus scutellaris dispersed 50 m per year from the point of release between 2013 and 2015 and, based on degree-day estimation, were capable of producing four generations per year at the Folsom site. Proportion live leaves per plant declined by 27% in the Folsom pond between 2012 and 2015. In 2015, plants in the release pond had 40% less live above-water biomass than plants 200 meters away in a canal, into which planthoppers had dispersed in 2014–2015. This early impact of the planthopper could, however, be obscured by inter-annual and within-site variability in plant growth. This study documents the first establishment of M. scutellaris on water hyacinth in the western U.S.
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Vol. 92 • No. 1