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Adaptation of Indigenous Larval Parasitoids to Tuta absoluta (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae) in Italy

Chiara Ferracini, Barbara Letizia Ingegno, Paolo Navone, Ester Ferrari, Marco Mosti, Luciana Tavella, Alberto Alma
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1603/EC11394 1311-1319 First published online: 1 August 2012


Tuta absoluta (Meyrick) (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae) is a serious threat to tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) crops in South America. In Europe, after its first detection in Spain in 2006, it rapidly spread through the Mediterranean basin, reaching Italy 2 yr later. The aim of our work was to find indigenous effective biological control agents and to evaluate their potential role in the control of larval populations of T. absoluta in controlled conditions. Nine species of larval parasitoids emerged from field-collected tomato leaves infested by T. absoluta. The most abundant, Necremnus near artynes (Walker) and Necremnus near tidius (Walker) (Hymenoptera: Eulophidae), were tested in laboratory parasitism trials. Furthermore, because the species N. artynes and N. tidius are each reported in literature as an ectoparasitoid of Cosmopterix pulchrimella Chambers (Lepidoptera: Cosmopterigidae) on upright pellitory plants, olfactometer bioassays were performed to assess the response of our parasitoids to the odors of tomato and pellitory leaves infested by T. absoluta and C. pulchrimella, respectively, compared with healthy ones. Both Necremnus species showed good adaptation to the invasive pest, and we observed a high larval mortality of T. absoluta because of host feeding and parasitism. Even olfactory responses highlighted a preference of both wasps for tomato plants infested by the exotic pest. These preliminary results demonstrated a high suitability of these indigenous natural enemies for controlling T. absoluta. Further investigations are needed to confirm their role as potential biological agents in commercial tomato plantations.

  • biological control
  • native natural enemy
  • exotic invasive pest
  • Necremnus spp.
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