The cotton mealybug, Phenacoccus solenopsis Tinsley (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) in Israel: pest status, host plants and natural enemies.
In Israel, the cotton mealybug Phenacoccus solenopsis Tinsley, an invasive scale insect, was reported for the first time in the Jordan Valley in 2008 on basil (Ocimum basilicum) and bell pepper (Capsicum annuum). This mealybug is highly polyphagous with economic and environmental impacts. Since then, Ph. solenopsis has spread to almost every region of Israel and developed high populations on several ornamental plants, mainly Hibiscus sp. (Malvaceae) and Lantana sp. (Verbenaceae). It has become a pest in greenhouses, mainly on bell pepper, tomato, and eggplant (Solanaceae) and a serious threat in cotton fields. Fourteen species of insect natural enemies have been found in association with Ph. solenopsis in Israel the common ones were: Aenasius arizonensis (Girault) (Hym. Encyrtidae), Cheilomenes propinqua (Mulsant), Hyperaspis vinciguerrae (Capra); H. polita Weise, Exochomus nigripennis (Erichson), Parascymnus varius Kirsch and Scymnus flagellisiphonatus (Fursch) (Col., Coccinellidae). To date, the population density of Ph. solenopsis in Israel is steeply decreasing in most regions of Israel due to the activity of A. arizonensis. An identification key to distinguish between adult females of the eight species belonging to the genus Phenacoccus in Israel is also provided.