Life history traits and host suitability of a gall-forming fly, Polymorphomyia basilica (Diptera: Tephritidae), for the biological control of Chromolaena odorata (Asteraceae) in South Africa

  • Nontembeko DubeEmail author
  • Costas Zachariades
  • Osariyekemwen Uyi
  • Thinandavha C. Munyai
Original Paper


The tephritid Cecidochares connexa has been used to good effect as a biological control agent on the Asian/West African biotype of the invasive alien shrub Chromolaena odorata, but does not develop well on the different, southern African C. odorata biotype. A stem-galling tephritid fly, Polymorphomyia basilica, from the northern Caribbean islands, was considered as a potential biological control agent for C. odorata in South Africa. Life history traits and host range on 32 asteraceous plants were investigated in single-choice tests and using single pairs of adults in no-choice tests, under laboratory conditions. Positive biological characteristics of P. basilica include a high rate of increase, the production of several generations per year, long-lived and mobile adults, the ability of females to produce viable offspring without repeated mating, and the ability of adults to eclose from galls on dry stems. Use of a single pair of adults for no-choice tests proved to be efficient. Oviposition and larval development through to adulthood occurred on three other South American and on two South African species; for the latter, one was in the tribe Eupatorieae, closely related to C. odorata, and the other in the Astereae, less closely related to the weed, but both at a lower and slower rate. Females tended to retain their eggs under no-choice conditions in the presence of an unsuitable host, and to compensate by ovipositing at a higher rate when presented later with a C. odorata plant. The poor offspring survival on non-target plants tested in this study demonstrates the suitability of P. basilica for release in South Africa.


Gall former Tephritid fly Invasive alien plant Asteraceae Biology Host-specificity testing 



The Department of Environmental Affairs: Natural Resource Management Programmes of South Africa is thanked for funding of the current research, together with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Agricultural Research Council. The National Environment and Planning Agency of Jamaica is thanked for collection and export permits for P. basilica, and the University of the West Indies, Mona, in expediting fieldwork. The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of South Africa is thanked for issuing an import permit for P. basilica. Sthembiso Dlomo is thanked for culture maintenance; ARC-PHP interns Nompumelelo Gumede, Pearl Mhlongo and Nduduzo Ndlovu for assisting with trials whilst the first author was away; ARC-PHP Cedara staff as a whole for watering during weekends and holidays.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Agricultural Research Council, Plant Health and ProtectionHiltonSouth Africa
  2. 2.School of Life SciencesUniversity of KwaZulu-NatalScottsvilleSouth Africa
  3. 3.Department of Animal and Environmental BiologyUniversity of BeninBenin CityNigeria
  4. 4.Department of Zoology and EntomologyUniversity of Fort HareAliceSouth Africa

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