Thermal physiology and predicted distribution of Zygogramma bicolorata (Chrysomelidae), a promising agent for the biological control of the invasive weed Parthenium hysterophorus in South Africa.
Parthenium hysterophorus (Asteraceae), classified as an emerging weed in South Africa, has become abundant throughout large parts of southern and eastern Africa. In South Africa it has invaded areas in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, the North West Province and Limpopo. A biological control programme against parthenium weed was launched in South Africa in 2003, based on the success achieved in Australia. Zygogramma bicolorata, a leaf-feeding beetle native to Mexico, was imported into South Africa via Central Queensland, Australia where it was released in the 1980s. This thesis examines aspects of the thermal physiology of Z. bicolorata which, in conjunction with its native and exotic geographical distribution, was used to predict the potential distribution of the agent in South Africa, in relation to climate. To determine Z. bicolorata’s physiological capability, several physiological parameters were examined for mechanistic modelling purposes. These parameters included the beetle’s lethal thermal limits, critical thermal limits, lethal humidities (Chapter 2) and developmental rate at constant temperatures (Chapter 3). In Chapter 4, these physiological parameters were entered into the dynamic modelling program CLIMEX (CLIMEX programme ver. 2, CSIRO Entomology ©) and a map of the areas that are acceptable for the establishment of Z. bicolorata was produced. The CLIMEX model predicted that most of South Africa is favourable for the establishment of the beetle, except in the west of the country and in the north of Lesotho, extending into South Africa. All areas in which parthenium currently occurs were predicted to be very favourable for Z. bicolorata establishment and proliferation. Optimal release sites aimed at initial establishment were earmarked at three areas in the northeastern part of South Africa (Jozini, Ndumu Game Reserve and along the road from Swaziland to Mozambique). It is concluded that Z. bicolorata is climatically suited to South Africa, increasing the likelihood that populations will establish and proliferate when released.
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