Oviposition preference and larval performance of the sweet potato butterfly Acraea acerata on Ipomoea species in Ethiopia
Abstract:• The sweet potato butterfly Acraea acerata is an indigenous species in Ethiopia that has become a major pest on the introduced sweet potato Ipomoea batatas. To assess the role of wild Ethiopian Ipomoea species as host plants, the presence of larvae on wild ipomoeas was studied, and female oviposition choice and larval performance were tested on five wild ipomoeas, as well as on sweet potato.
• In laboratory tests, oviposition and larval development were successful on two wild ipomoeas (Ipomoea tenuirostris and Ipomoea cairica) but no oviposition occurred on the remaining three species. Of the latter, larvae did not feed on Ipomoea hochstetteri and Ipomoea indica, and survival rates were extremely low on Ipomoea purpurea.
• Sweet potato was a better host plant than I. tenuirostris and I. cairica in terms of oviposition preference, larval survival and pupal size; pupae were larger, resulting in more fecund female butterflies.
• In the wild butterfly populations were abundant on I. tenuirostris but absent on I. cairica. Females also tended to prefer I. tenuirostris to I. cairica in oviposition choice experiments. However, no significant differences in performance were found between larvae raised on I. tenuirostris and I. cairica in the laboratory.
• Wild populations of A. acerata also existed on Ipomoea obscura, a plant not investigated in the present study.
• The abundance of A. acerata on wild ipomoeas is too low to likely affect butterfly population densities on sweet potato. However, wild populations may act as reservoirs subsequent to butterfly population bottlenecks on sweet potato.