Adult Description: The Giant Sweetpotato bug (Spartocera batatas) is 18-23 mm in length, with a dark brown body, and red spots on the circumference of the abdomen. This species can be recognized by the rounded pronotum, the absence of spiked projections resembling teeth, and the unusual intersection of veins on the forewings. This insect can also be recognized by a distinct foul odor.
Larva Description: Giant Sweetpotato bug eggs are thickset ovals that range from brown to gold in color depending on the age of the egg. Nymphs are bright red after hatching and become dark brown rapidly prior to maturation.
Host Plant: Sweet potato, eggplant, tomato, potato, and avocado
Ecological Threat: Currently, there is minimal literature describing the Giant Sweetpotato bug as a severe pest, but specific potential remains unknown at this point. Initial reports of the Giant Sweetpotato bug in Florida stated that detection resulted from damage to a field of sweet potatoes. Another article (Ravelo, 1988) describes damage to the same crop in Cuba. The Asian sweet potato plant is most vulnerable for damage from the Giant Sweetpotato bug because of the plants fragile nature. Further, the Giant Sweetpotato bug has displayed preference to plant variety by infesting specific fields and leaving surrounding sweet potato fields of a different variety untouched. Until further reports of presence and resulting damage of the Giant Sweetpotato bug are provided the damage potential of this insect will remain unknown.
Biology: Very little specifics are known about the Giant Sweetpotato bug due to the low threat of causing severe damage. However, it has been observed that adults migrate in large numbers until a host field is located with the potential to reach pest status based on density.
History: The Giant Sweetpotato bug was introduced to the Continental U.S. in 1995 through Florida where it was discovered in Miami and Homestead. The exact method of introduction to the U.S. is not known, but the Giant Sweetpotato bug became established by late 1996 in Florida. The Giant Sweetpotato bug has also been recorded in Puerto Rico and Cuba as a minor pest.
U.S. Habitat: The Giant Sweetpotato bug can be found in agriculture fields of sweet potato, tomato, potato, eggplant, avocado, and grassy areas surrounding these fields. Transient adults can be found in abnormal grassy areas away from a host plant temporarily. The plant used for breeding areas is not currently known.
Native Origin: Surinam and Caribbean Islands
U.S. Present: Southeast United States
Distribution in Texas:
The Giant Sweetpotato bug if detected, can be treated with pesticides used for insects found on pumpkin and winter squash. However, the adult stage of the Giant Sweetpotato bug is difficult to eradicate and it is most effective to apply pesticides when the insect is in the nymph stage.
Barber HG. 1939. Scientific Survey of Puerto Rio and the Virgin Islands. Volume 14, Part 3. Hemiptera-Heteroptera (excepting the Miridae and Corixidae). New York Academy of Sciences, New York, NY. 441 p.
Baranowski RM, Slater JA. 1986. Coreidae of Florida (Hemiptera: Heteroptera). Arthropods of Florida and Neighboring Land Areas. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Gainesville, FL. Volume 122. 82 p.
Ravelo HG. 1988. Spartocera batatas (Fabricius) (Heteroptera: Coreidae) en Cuba. Centro Agricola 15: 87-88.