Dactylopius opuntiae, a new prickly pear cactus pest in the Mediterranean: an overview.
The Opuntia cochineal scale or false carmine cochineal scale, Dactylopius opuntiae (Cockerell) (Hemiptera: Dactylopiidae), is spreading rapidly in many countries, especially in the Mediterranean basin, where it has become a serious pest of prickly pear crops, Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Miller (Cactaceae). This crop is an important food resource both for humans and livestock. The cochineal was originally used as a biological agent to control cactaceous weeds in many countries where Opuntiaceae had been introduced. Currently, in some countries where the prickly pear is no longer considered a weed but a productive crop, as in the Mediterranean area, D. opuntiae has changed its role from a highly prized biological control agent to the status of serious pest. This paper provides an overview of the current knowledge on D. opuntiae for farmers and stakeholders in order to indicate the most appropriate way to limit or counteract the spread of this pest especially in new cultivated areas.