Arthropod associates of Kenyan buffelgrass (Cenchrus ciliaris): a field survey for biological control candidates of a globally important invasive grass




biological control, grass, herbivore, introduced, gall midge, specialist, insect, invasive alien grass


Invasive species are the second largest contributor to biodiversity loss and drivers of ecosystem change. Buffelgrass is a C4, perennial grass native to Africa and Asia that was widely introduced across tropical and subtropical rangelands as livestock forage. Buffelgrass reduces native biodiversity and ecosystem stability in its introduced range when it escapes livestock pastures. Understanding the ecology of insects associated with buffelgrass in its native range may provide an understanding of invasion processes and biological control opportunities where buffelgrass has become an invasive challenge. Here, we present the results of a six-year survey of herbivorous arthropods of a native buffelgrass population from Kenya. Buffelgrass was examined for externally and internally feeding insects of vegetative and reproductive tissues. We also categorised buffelgrass detritivores and parasitoids that may use buffelgrass herbivores as hosts. The samples were photographed and Sanger sequenced to identify them to the lowest possible taxonomic  ranking. We collected information on sample abundances, phenologies, tissues consumed, and putative diet breadths. We identified 25 morphospecies representing seven orders and 16 families. The putative host plant specialisation was as high as 67% for Diptera. Phenological variation in herbivore presence correlated with seasonal rainfall and provided a guide for when to conduct follow-up biological control agent searches. The most abundant herbivore was a gall midge (Diptera: Cecidomyiidae) that inhabits buffelgrass culms. Additional research should focus on bringing this species into containment where host choice trials can be conducted to determine if it is truly monophagous and assess its impact on buffelgrass growth.


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Morrison C, Plowes R, Ng’iru I, Rhodes A, Martins D, Gilbert L. Arthropod associates of Kenyan buffelgrass (Cenchrus ciliaris): a field survey for biological control candidates of a globally important invasive grass. Afr. Entomol. [Internet]. 2023 Nov. 24 [cited 2024 Feb. 28];31. Available from: