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Importation, releases, and establishment of Neochetina spp. (col., curculionidae) for the biological control of water hyacinth, Eichhomia crassipes CLil., Pontederiaceae), Benin, West Africa
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Water hyacinth,Eichhornia crassipes (Martius) Solms-Laubach (Pontederiaceae) was first reported in Bénin in 1977 and about 10 years later became the major floating water weed in the south east, obstructing boat traffic and fisheries. Water hyacinth multiplies in permanently fresh water in the swampy upper reaches of the Sô River and in tributaries of the Ouémé River. From there it is moved by wind and water flow to the coastal lagoons. The coastal lagoons are brackish during the dry season and water hyacinth eventually dies. In 1991, Neochetina eichhorniae (Warner) (Col.: Curculionidae) of South American origin was imported from Australia via quarantine in Britain to Bénin. A small infestation of the fungus Beauveria bassiana (Bals.) Vuill. (Hyphomycetes) was eliminated from the colony before release by sterilizing eggs and rearing a fungus-free generation. Between late 1991 and mid 1993, about 23, 900N. eichhorniae were released at 11 localities along the Ouémé River and in the head waters of the Sô River. Regular monitoring revealed feeding scars by adults on leaves and tunnelling by larvae in petioles at all release sites. By October 1993,N. eichhorniae had spread up to 20 km from some release sites.Neochetina bruchi Hustache was imported in 1992. A total of about 5,700 weevils have been released in six localities since mid 1992. Recoveries of offspring were made in all but one locality. Despite the negative impact of water flow, wind, penetration of salt water, and removal of infested water hyacinth by fishermen,N. eichhorniae andN. bruchi are established in Bénin in a situation typical for coastal West Africa.