Predicting the distribution of Eccritotarsus catarinensis, a natural enemy released on water hyacinth in South Africa


*Correspondence: Julie A. Coetzee, Department of Zoology and Entomology, Rhodes University, P.O. Box 94, Grahamstown 6140, South Africa. E-mail:


Water hyacinth [Eichhornia crassipes (Mart.) Solms (Pontederiaceae)] is the most damaging aquatic weed in South Africa, where five arthropod biological control agents have been released against it. The most recent introduction of Eccritotarsus catarinensis (Carvalho) (Heteroptera: Miridae) has failed to establish permanent populations at a number of sites in South Africa where water hyacinth is a problem. Cold winter temperatures at these sites are assumed to be the reason for these establishment failures. This assumption was tested by investigating the thermal physiology of the mirid, then incorporating these data into various predictive distribution models. Degree-day models predict 3–14 generations per year at different localities in South Africa, and five generations at a Johannesburg site where the mirid failed to overwinter. The inability to develop sufficiently rapidly during winter months may hinder overwintering of this insect, which was predicted to develop through only one generation during the winter months of April to August in Johannesburg. A CLIMEX model also showed that cold stress limits the mirid's ability to overwinter in the interior of the country, while determination of the lower lethal limit (–3.5 °C) and critical thermal minimum (1.2 ± 1.17 °C) also indicated that extreme temperatures will limit establishment at certain sites. It is concluded that E. catarinensis is limited in its distribution in South Africa by low winter temperatures.