Biological Control of Black Vine Weevil using Insect Parasitic Nematodes / by Ganpati Jagdale

  • Black vine weevil, Otiorhynchus sulcatus is a common insect pest of over 150 plant species that grown in the greenhouses and nurseries.
  • Some of the plant species damaged by black vine weevils include Azalea, Cyclamen, Euonymus, Fuxia, Rosa, Rhododendron and Taxus.
  • Grubs (Larvae) of these weevils generally girdle the main stem, and feed and damage roots leading to nutrient deficiencies.
  • Adults feed on leaves and flowers by notching their edges thus reducing aesthetic value of plants.
  • The entomopathogenic nematodes species including Heterorhabditis bacteriophora, H. megidis and Steinernema carpocapase, S. feltiae and S. glaseri have been found to be effective alternatives to chemical insecticides such as chlorpyrifos (Dursban) in controlling black vine weevils.
  • Susceptibility of black vine weevil to nematodes is species and strain specific.
  • The rate of application of the nematode species/strains that tested against black vine weevil varies (5,000- 60,000 infective juveniles/pot) among different studies but nematodes applied at the rate of 5000- 20,000 infective juveniles/pot can cause up to 100% grub mortality.
  • Nematodes can be easily applied in water suspension as spray applications to the surface of plant growing medium but if nematodes are injected at depths deeper than 5 cm i.e. near to grubs they can cause highest mortality of grubs (70-93%) than those nematodes applied to the surface.
  • All the four larval stages (instars) and pupae of black vine weevil are susceptible to all entomopathogenic nematode species.
  • However, Heterorhabdtis bacteriophora can cause higher mortality of first and second instars than S. carpocapase and S. glaseri.
  • Also, all the three nematodes species are equally effective against third and fourth instars of black vine weevil.

How Entomopathogenic Nematodes Kill Black Vine Weevil

  • When the infective juveniles are applied to the surface of plant growing medium or injected in the potting medium, they start searching for their hosts, in this case black vine weevil grubs and pupae.
  • Once a grub/pupa has been located, the nematode infective juveniles penetrate into the grub or pupa body cavity via natural openings (mouth, anus and spiracles).
  • Infective juveniles of Heterorhabditis also enter through the intersegmental members of the grub/pupa cuticle.
  • Once in the body cavity, infective juveniles release symbiotic bacteria (Xenorhabdus spp. for Steinernematidae and Photorhabdus spp. for Heterorhabditidae) from their gut in the grub blood.
  • Multiplying nematode-bacterium complex in the blood causes septicemia and kills the grub usually within 48 h after infection.
  • Nematodes feed on multiplying bacteria, mature into adults, reproduce and then emerge as infective juveniles from the cadaver to seek new grubs or pupae in the potting medium/soil.