Aquatic Weed Management With Insects: Update for Craven County, 2020

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Following the very mild winter of 2019/2020, alligatorweed flea beetle numbers were high in 2020, and damage to a number of local alligatorweed sites was substantial. Both the larvae and the flea beetle adults feed heavily on alligatorweed foliage, and successive years of damage can significantly impact large infestations of this non-native invasive weed. Alligatorweed thrips (Amynothrips andersoni) are also now present in our region, and are believed to be more cold hardy than the flea beetles. (See Alligatorweed Thrips for Alligatorweed Control for information on the thrips.)
While scouting for alligatorweed flea beetle and thrips populations over the past few months, I also noticed a few beetles and a tremendous number of larvae on water primrose, (Ludwigia spp.), another aggressive aquatic plant. This insect turned out to be the water primrose flea beetle (Lysathia ludoviciana), which has been suggested by scientists as a potential biological control for water primrose
(McGregor et al., J. Aquat. Plant Manage. 34: 1996).
Flea beetle

The flea beetle has landed: But on the wrong plant. This is water primrose, not a food source
for the alligatorweed flea beetle.

Alligatorweed flea beetle

The right plant. Alligatorweed flea beetle on alligatorweed.

Water primrose flea beetle

Water primrose flea beetle grazing on water primrose.

Water primrose flea beetle

Water primrose flea beetle larvae and an example of the damage done to water primrose foliage.

Immature alligatorweed thrips

They’re small but effective; immature alligatorweed thrips at the base of an alligatorweed leaf.