Subject: Swarming on beach morning glory
Location: Wellington, Florida
December 24, 2015 2:50 pm
There is a crowd of these bugs swarming on our only beach morning glory plant (Ipomoea imperati) here in western Palm Beach County, Florida. The plant looks peaked and is starting to turn yellow. What are these bugs, and are the bugs to blame? Will they move on to other plants after they are done with the morning glory?
We are sorry about the delay, but you wrote during the time we were out of the office for two weeks and we are still catching up on old mail. These appear to be Giant Sweet Potato Bug nymphs, Spartocera batatas, based on this BugGuide image. The individual in that image were also on morning glory in Florida. Though BugGuide notes: “native to the Neotropics (West Indies to so. Brazil), adventive in our area (FL)” and “first reported in the continental US: FL 1995,” there is no mention of food plants, so we cannot say if they will move to other plants. Featured Creatures has much more information including: “A large colony of Spartocera batatas (Fabricius) was found in late June 1995 on an Asian cultivar of sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) in Homestead, Florida, by Lynn D. Howerton, environmental specialist, Division of Plant Industry (DPI). The plants were badly damaged by the insects. That collection represented the first report of S. batatas in the continental U.S. Subsequent surveys of commercial fields of sweet potatoes in the area failed to turn up any more S. batatas. However, an additional single specimen was found in Miami in early October 1995 by DPI Inspector Ramon A. Dones. Many bugs were found in suburban Miami by Julieta Brambila (University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences) in late September 1996.” The following food plants are also mentioned: “The most important host of S. batatas appears to be sweet potato, after which it was named. Other hosts listed in the literature include Solanaceae [tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum), eggplant (Solanum melongena var. esculentum), potato (Solanum tuberosum), and Solanum nigrum], Lauraceae [avocado (Persea americana)] and Rutaceae (Citrus spp.) (Ravelo 1988, Martorell 1976, Alayo 1967, Barber 1939, Wolcott 1923). Observations in Florida indicate that S. batatas adults sometimes disperse in high numbers. Thus, transient adults could be collected on a wide variety of plants. It is not known which of the above host records represent breeding populations.”
Thank you – this information is very helpful. I have been picking them off because the morning glory is at the edge of our vegetable garden and we found more of the nymphs on the other side of the garden. We also have an avocado tree nearby so we don’t want to take any chances that they might spread further.
I appreciate your response.