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Macrohomotoma gladiata Kuwayama, 1908: A jumping plant-louse recently introduced into the Mediterranean Region

La Torre owners will have recently spotted a white fluffy looking infestation appearing on their hedges bordering their gardens. This first appeared a couple of years ago and has been treated with an insecticide, which at the first attempt appeared to resolve the problem. However, this was not the case and the infestation continued and got worse during 2013.

 Background

The presence of an unusual psyllid was first observed infesting a few twigs of eight amenity fig trees (Ficus Microcarpa) in the Campus of the University of Alicante in July 2011.

The species was identified as Macrohomotoma gladiata, a species of Asian origin and is considered to be a pest.

Short description: Body length from 2-3 mm. General body coloration light to dirty brown, with transparent forewings and dark markings. The head is as wide as body.

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Host plants: This pest species has only been recorded on Ficus Microcarpa (syn. F. Retusa) – which exists in abundance on La Torre as hedges bordering owners properties. The Ficus formed (lollipop trees) do not appear to be infected yet.

The genus Macrohomotoma currently has 14 described species which are distributed from India to Australia.

World distribution: This species is known to occur in the following Asian countries: Ryukyu Islands (Japan), Sumatra (Indonesia), and Taiwan and this is the first time that a species belonging to this family has being recorded outside its native range and Spanish authorities have been notified.

Symptoms on infested host plant: infestations can easily be detected because of the relatively large amount of white and woolly waxy secretions that are produced by the nymphs. Additional symptoms are the presence of rolled leaves at the tip of the twigs. M. gladiata has the potential to damage F. Microcarpa trees that have been planted for amenity purposes in the EPPO region.

Control and removal:
There is a natural predator that eats Macrohomotoma, but it is not native to Spain and no tests have been carried out by the authorities as yet, as to the potential impact of introducing yet another alien species into Spain.

There is a systemic insecticide called Movento, which can help control these insects, however it is used in agriculture rather than for domestic urbanisations and is also quite expensive. Further investigations are currently continuing.

Peter Hutton

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