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Biology of Agapeta zoegana (Lepidoptera: Cochylidae), propagated for the biological control of knapweeds (Asteraceae)

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Abstract

We examined the influence of temperature and release density on the root-boring moth, Agapeta zoegana L., a biological control agent of diffuse knapweed, Centaurea diffusa Lam., and spotted knapweed, Centaurea maculosa Lam. Moths were released at six densities (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, and 32 adult male–female pairs) in each of 2 years (1992 and 1993 cohorts) into outdoor, caged plots containing spotted knapweed. Air temperature, larval establishment and mass, and adult emergence, mass, and body dimensions were measured. Larval production increased linearly with adult release density in both cohorts. Larval survival ranged from 0 to 100% and was not correlated with release density or accumulated degree-days in either year. Date of first emergence occurred earlier as both release density and larvae per plant increased, but only for the 1992 cohort. Declining resources or increased contact among the larvae may induce early pupation. Peak emergence rate increased with release density in both cohorts. First emergence was related more closely to calendar date than accumulated degree-days. In contrast, peak emergence rates were more consistent with degree-day accumulations between cohorts than calendar date. Adult production increased with parental release density in both cohorts. Females were heavier, wider, and longer than males. Optimal A. zoegana production will be achieved with releases of greater than 1.6 male–female adult pairs per spotted knapweed plant.

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