Distribution. This native insect is recorded from all the southeastern states from Maryland to Texas. It is also known from Central and South America and the Caribbean.
Host Plants. Sweet potato is the principal host of this insect, and the only vegetable crop to be attacked. This species has also been collected from morning-glory, Ipomoea spp.
Natural Enemies. The natural enemies of this insect are not known.
Life Cycle and Description. A single generation occurs annually in North Carolina. Adults are present from late May to mid-July, and eggs from June until early August. Larvae, which are the overwintering stage, are present from June until the following spring. The pupal stage occurs in May. Duration of the complete life cycle is about 300-350 days.
The biology of sweetpotato leaf beetle was presented by Brannon (1938), and additional observations could be found in King and Saunders (1984).
The adults feed on the foliage, starting with the marginal areas and working inward toward the center of the leaf. The aggregated nature of adults, especially
after they have initially emerged, tends to result in localized defoliation. However, adult feeding damage is relatively minor as compared to injury by larvae. The larvae feed in stem, root and tuber tissue. Larvae can burrow deep into the tuber, creating tunnels packed with fecal material. They also may conine their feeding to the surface of the tuber, creating scars.
These insects, while widespread, are infrequently numerous. Therefore, controls are rarely warranted. Foliar insecticides effectively suppress adults. Larval injury is best prevented with the application of liquid or granular insecticide to the soil.
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