Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Whitefly endosymbionts: IPM opportunity or tilting at windmills?

Abstract

Whiteflies are sap-sucking insects responsible for high economic losses. They colonize hundreds of plant species and cause direct feeding damage and indirect damage through transmission of devastating viruses. Modern agriculture has seen a history of invasive whitefly species and populations that expand to novel regions, bringing along fierce viruses. Control efforts are hindered by fast virus transmission, insecticide-resistant populations, and a wide host range which permits large natural reservoirs for whiteflies. Augmentative biocontrol by parasitoids while effective in suppressing high population densities in greenhouses falls short when it comes to preventing virus transmission and is ineffective in the open field. A potential source of much needed novel control strategies lays within a diverse community of whitefly endosymbionts. The idea to exploit endosymbionts for whitefly control is as old as identification of these bacteria, yet it still has not come to fruition. We review where our knowledge stands on the aspects of whitefly endosymbiont evolution, biology, metabolism, multitrophic interactions, and population dynamics. We show how these insights are bringing us closer to the goal of better integrated pest management strategies. Combining most up to date understanding of whitefly-endosymbiont interactions and recent technological advances, we discuss possibilities of disrupting and manipulating whitefly endosymbionts, as well as using them for pest control.