Tshililo Emmanuel Mphephu

Entomology Doctoral Candidate

Office: F11, First Floor, Life Science Building

BSc, Botany & Zoology, University of Venda (2010)
BSc (Hons) Botany, University of Venda (2012)
MSc, Entomology, University of KwaZulu-Natal (2015)

Thesis title: Effect of Helicosporidium sp. (Chlorophyta; Trebouxiophyceae) infection in Cyrtobagous Salviniae Calder and Sands (Coleoptera; Curculionidae) populations introduced onto the invasive Salvinia molesta D.S. Mitchell (Salviniaceae) in South Africa.

Supervisors: Professor Martin Hill and Associate Professor Julie Coetzee

Tshililo Mphephu, is a PhD candidate with the Centre at Rhodes University. In the past 4 years, he was working as a junior researcher, conducting pre-release host specificity studies on candidate biocontrol agents to be released against terrestrial alien invasive weeds (Mexican species) in South Africa. Currently, his research topic is the aquatic weed, Salvina molesta, which has been successfully controlled by the weevil, Cytobagous salviniae in South Africa and elsewhere. Recently, C. salviniae performance against the S. molesta appears to have been reduced. The exact cause is unknown, but it has been attributed to the infection by Helicosporidium sp. The Helicosporidium sp. was first discovered during 2007 in C. salviniae populations distributed in South Africa. Therefore, this study will identify the distribution, occurrence and infection rates of the Helicosporidium sp. in the C. salviniae in South Africa. Further, various laboratory studies will be conducted, most importantly to evaluate the role of the infection in C. salviniae populations. Most importantly for the programme, the study will evaluate and select effective antibiotics to clean out the infection from the C. salviniae colonies, under mass rearing facility (possibly antibiotics that would induce the C. salviniae to be resistant towards the Helicosporidium sp. infection), prior to their field release onto the S. molesta in South Africa. Further, clean cultures of the weevil will be sourced from the USA to compare to the South African populations to determine the impact of the disease on agent performance.

Research interests
  • Biological control of weeds
  • Insect-insect interactions
  • Plant taxonomy
  • Insect-Plant gall anatomy
Recent Publications

Mphephu, T.E., Olckers, T., Simelane, D.O., 2017. The tortoise beetle Physonota maculiventris (Chrysomelidae: Cassidinae) is suitable for release against the weedy Mexican sunflower Tithonia diversifolia (Asteraceae) in South Africa. Biocontrol Science and Technology27 (4):510-524.

Popular articles

SimelaneD, Mphephu T. New biological control initiatives against poisonous South American inkberries (Cestrum species) in South Africa. Published: SAPIA News, page 4, Issue No. 40, April 2016.

Mphephu T, Simelane D, Mawela K.V. Prospects brighten for the biological control of the weedy Mexican sunflower, Tithonia diversifolia, in South Africa. Published: PPRI News, Page 11, Issue No. 9, October 2013.

Last Modified: Fri, 02 Nov 2018 13:55:35 SAST