Hypogeococcus pungens (cactus mealybug)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Growth Stages
- List of Symptoms/Signs
- Biology and Ecology
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Pathway Vectors
- Plant Trade
- Impact Summary
- Environmental Impact
- Threatened Species
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Hypogeococcus pungens Granara de Willink, 1981
Preferred Common Name
- cactus mealybug
International Common Names
- English: harrisia cactus mealybug
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
The mealybug Hypogeococcus pungens is native to South America. It was first used as a biological control agent of invasive cacti in the subfamily Cactoideae in Queensland, Australia, in 1975 and South Africa in 1983, and has since become an invasive species in several other parts of the world, including Europe, North America and the Caribbean, probably through the ornamental plant trade. H. pungens is now a serious pest of the native columnar cacti in the subfamily Cactoideae in Puerto Rico and is a threat to native cacti in Florida and Hawaii (USA), Barbados and other Caribbean islands. H. pungens will probably spread to Mexico, where it may cause similar damage to the rich diversity of cacti. Besides feeding on species in the family Cactaceae, it also feeds on other ornamental plant families, including Portulacaceae, Apocynaceae and Amaranthaceae. H. pungens causes distorted plant growth.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Metazoa
- Phylum: Arthropoda
- Subphylum: Uniramia
- Class: Insecta
- Order: Hemiptera
- Suborder: Sternorrhyncha
- Unknown: Coccoidea
- Family: Pseudococcidae
- Genus: Hypogeococcus
- Species: Hypogeococcus pungens
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
H. pungens was originally described by Granara de Willink from Alternanthera pungens (Amaranthaceae) in the Tucumán Province of Argentina in 1981 (Granara de Willink, 1981; Ben-Dov, 1994). H. pungens was misidentified as Hypogeococcus festerianus (Lizer y Trelles) by Williams (1973) and this has led to some confusion in the literature, with a number of publications listing H. pungens as H. festerianus (Hodges and Hodges, 2009; Ben-Dov et al., 2015). Triapitsyn et al. (2014a,b) query the identity of the species called H. pungens in Puerto Rico, USA, Barbados and other Caribbean islands, and state that its true identity is currently being investigated using morphological and molecular methods.
Identification keys for the female adult of H. pungensare given in Granara de Willink (1981) and Williams and Granara de Willink (1992).
DescriptionTop of page
The adult female of H. pungens is described and illustrated in Granara de Willink (1981) and Williams and Granara de Willink (1992). The larval instars are described and illustrated in Granara de Willink (1981). The adult female is about 3 mm long and oval to round (Hodges and Hodges, 2009). In life, the body contents of females vary in colour from pink to pink-yellow and the legs are light yellow; nymphs and males are deep pink (McFadyen, 1979) and the eggs are pink (Miller et al., 2014). The adult females are covered with a woolly, white mass of waxy threads, which protect them from predators. Lateral wax filaments are absent. The adult males do not resemble the females and have two semi-transparent wings and long ‘tail’ filaments (ARC-Plant Protection Research Institute, 2002). Further validation characters are given in Williams and Granara de Willink (1992) and Miller et al. (2014). Authoritative identification requires slide-mounted adult females under a compound light microscope.
DistributionTop of page
The native range of H. pungens in South America covers a wide climatic range from Mendoza, Argentina to the Paraguayan Chaco (McFadyen and Tomley, 1981a). It is invasive in a few countries in North America, the Caribbean and Europe, as well as in Queensland, Australia.
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 10 Jan 2020
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|South Africa||Present||Introduced||1983||Invasive||Moran and Zimmermann (1991)|
|France||Present||Introduced||2002||Invasive||Ben-Dov et al. (2002)|
|-Corsica||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Pellizzari and Germain (2010)|
|Greece||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Ben-Dov et al. (2002)|
|Italy||Present, Only in captivity/cultivation||Introduced||1986||Invasive||Süss and Trematerra (1986)||Liguria|
|Spain||Present||Introduced||2008||Invasive||Beltrà and Soto (2011)||Valencia|
|-Canary Islands||Present||Introduced||Invasive||CABI (Undated)||Original citation: Zimmermann and Pérez Sandi Cuen (2010)|
|Barbados||Present||Introduced||Invasive||CABI (Undated)||Original citation: Zimmermann and Pérez Sandi Cuen (2010)|
|Dominican Republic||Present||Introduced||2010||Invasive||German-Ramirez et al. (2014)|
|Guadeloupe||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Matile-Ferrero and Etienne (2006)|
|Martinique||Present||Introduced||2003||Invasive||Germain and Grassart (2005); Matile-Ferrero and Etienne (2006)|
|Puerto Rico||Present||Introduced||2002||Invasive||Segarra-Carmona et al. (2010); CABI (Undated)|
|Saint Lucia||Present||Malumphy (2014)||via PestLens newsletter|
|U.S. Virgin Islands||Present||Introduced||Invasive||CABI (Undated)||St. Thomas; Original citation: Zimmermann and Pérez Sandi Cuen (2010)|
|United States||Present||CABI (Undated a)||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-California||Present||Introduced||Arakelian (2013); CABI (Undated)|
|-Florida||Present||Introduced||1984||Invasive||Hamon (1984); Downie and Gullan (2004); CABI (Undated)||Hollywood|
|-Hawaii||Present||Introduced||2005||German-Ramirez et al. (2014); Hodges and Hodges (2009)|
|Australia||Present||CABI (Undated a)||Present based on regional distribution.|
|Argentina||Present||Native||Ben-Dov (1994); CABI (Undated)|
|Brazil||Present||Native||Ben-Dov (1994); CABI (Undated)|
|Paraguay||Present||Native||Ben-Dov (1994); CABI (Undated)|
|Peru||Present||Native||Ben-Dov (1994); CABI (Undated)|
|Uruguay||Present||Native||CABI (Undated)||Original citation: Zimmermann et al. (2010)|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
H. pungens, under the name H. festerianus, was first used as a biological control agent of invasive cacti in Queensland, Australia, in 1975 (McFadyen, 1979). At the time of introduction to Australia it was thought only to attack cacti in the subtribe Cereanae because it had been misidentified as H. festerianus (Ben-Dov, 1994), but H. pungens has a wider host range than H. festerianus (Zimmermann et al., 2010). In 1983 a starter colony of the mealybug from Australia was introduced to South Africa to control invasive cacti (Moran and Zimmermann, 1991). H. pungens has now spread to other parts of the world, most likely via the ornamental plant trade, and is now found in Europe, North America and the Caribbean (Mazzeo et al., 2014; Pellizzari and Porcelli, 2014).
In Europe, H. pungens was first reported in Liguria, Italy, in 1986 (Süss and Trematerra, 1986) and it has since been recorded in mainland Italy and Sicily (Longo et al., 1995; Mazzeo et al., 2008, 2014), France (in 2002; Ben-Dov et al., 2002), Corsica (Pellizzari and Germain, 2010), Greece (Ben-Dov et al., 2002; Pellizzari and Porcelli, 2014) and Valencia, Spain (on Cereus peruvianus in March 2008) (Beltrà and Soto, 2011; Beltrà et al. 2012). It has become a key pest of ornamental plants in eastern Spain (Beltrà and Soto, 2011) and is also found on the Canary Islands (Zimmermann and Pérez Sandi Cuen, 2010).
H. pungens was first detected in Hollywood, Florida, USA, in 1984 (Hamon, 1984; Halbert, 1966, cited in Zimmermann and Pérez Sandi Cuen, 2010) and was later collected from Mandevilla sp. in Florida between 2000 and 2002 (Downie and Gullan, 2004). The species was reported from Hawaii, USA, in 2005 (Hodges and Hodges, 2009; German-Ramirez et al., 2014). It has also been reported on Cereus sp. at a single site in Beverly Hills, California (Zimmermann and Pérez Sandi Cuen, 2010; Arakelian, 2013). H. pungens is currently not considered a serious pest in Florida and is probably kept under control by natural enemies (CPHST Biological Control Unit, 2010).
It is believed that H. pungens has been intercepted in the ornamental plant trade in Florida, USA, and Puerto Rico since 1984 (Zimmermann et al., 2010), although the first report of it being intercepted in Puerto Rico was in San Juan on Portulaca oleracea in 2000 (Segarra-Carmona et al., 2010). The pest was observed damaging cacti in the field in the Guánica Forest Reserve of Puerto Rico in 2005 (Zimmermann et al., 2010). The Puerto Rico Department of Agriculture identified infestations of H. pungens on eight species of cacti in the Guánica Commonwealth Forest in 2008, and infestations of the pest were reported to extend along the southern coast of Puerto Rico, from Cabo Rojo to Yabucoa. In 2008 H. pungens was identified as the causal agent of malformations on Pilosocereus royenii in southern Puerto Rico, which had been observed since 1998. Severely infested plants died within a few years (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010; Weaver, 2011).
Elsewhere in the Caribbean, H. pungens was reported from Guadeloupe on several plants, including Blutaparon vermiculare in 1997 and Gomphrena globosa in 1998 (Matile-Ferrero and Étienne, 2006, cited in German-Ramirez et al., 2014), Barbados in the late 1990s (Zimmermann and Pérez Sandi Cuen, 2010) and from Martinique on Alternanthera sp. in 2003 (Germain and Grassart, 2005; Matile-Ferrero and Étienne, 2006, in German-Ramirez et al., 2014). H. pungens was first recorded in the Dominican Republic in May 2010 on the ornamental plant Gomphrena globosa (Caryophyllales: Amaranthaceae) in Santo Domingo (German-Ramirez et al., 2014). It was subsequently collected in Pedernales, Dominican Republic, in April 2011 on Opuntia moniliformis, a native cactus found in the subtropical dry forest area in that country (CA Serra, personal communication, cited in German-Ramirez et al., 2014). H. pungens has also been recorded in St. Thomas (US Virgin Islands) and Barbados (Zimmermann and Pérez Sandi Cuen, 2010).
Miller et al. (2014) reported that H. pungens was intercepted eight times at US ports of entry between 1995 and 2012, with specimens originating from Hawaii, Monaco, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. The species was intercepted on cacti (primarily on roots) from Germany, Peru and Puerto Rico. Specimens were also intercepted at plant quarantine inspections from Brazil (on Lobivia), Monaco (on Cleistocactus), Peru (on a cactus), Puerto Rico (host unknown) and St. Thomas (US Virgin Islands) (host unknown).
IntroductionsTop of page
|Introduced to||Introduced from||Year||Reason||Introduced by||Established in wild through||References||Notes|
|Natural reproduction||Continuous restocking|
|Queensland||Argentina||1975||Biological control (pathway cause)||Yes||No||McFadyen (1979)|
|South Africa||Australia||1983||Biological control (pathway cause)||Yes||No||Moran and Zimmermann (1991)|
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
It is thought likely that H. pungens will spread to Mexico (Zimmermann and Pérez Sandi Cuen, 2010) and more widely throughout the Caribbean islands (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010), where it may be a threat to native cacti.
HabitatTop of page
H. pungens lives in clusters of individuals on the stem or growing tips (apex) of the cactus host.
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial – Managed||Protected agriculture (e.g. glasshouse production)||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-natural||Deserts||Present, no further details|
|Arid regions||Present, no further details|
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
H. pungens feeds on cacti in the family Cactaceae, including the genera Cereus, Cleistocactus, Harrisia, Hickenia, Parodia, as well as several other ornamental plant families, including Portulacaceae, Apocynaceae, Amaranthaceae and Euphorbiaceae (Williams and Granara de Willink, 1992; Hodges and Hodges, 2009; Triapitsyn et al., 2014a).
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
|Achyranthes aspera (devil's horsewhip)||Amaranthaceae||Main|
|Alternanthera bettzickiana (calico plant)||Amaranthaceae||Main|
|Alternanthera pungens (Khaki weed)||Amaranthaceae||Other|
|Gomphrena globosa (globe amaranth)||Amaranthaceae||Main|
|Harrisia portoricensis (higo chumbo)||Cactaceae||Main|
|Portulaca oleracea (purslane)||Portulacaceae||Main|
|Portulaca quadrifida (chickenweed)||Portulacaceae||Main|
Growth StagesTop of page Flowering stage, Vegetative growing stage
SymptomsTop of page
H. pungens tends to live and feed on the growing tips or meristem of its cactus hosts. Initially the infested tips of the cactus stems grow abnormally and become twisted and distorted. Soon afterwards white, woolly masses appear on the tips of the stems. The distorted stems provide sheltered crevices which give protection to H. pungens (McFadyen and Tomley, 1981a). Infestations can lead to a change in hormone production within the plant, stimulating the production of lateral buds and leading to the generation of a gall-like structure. Stem growth and flower and fruit production is reduced or arrested in infested plants (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010; Zimmermann et al., 2010).
Flower buds are also attacked and plants that have been infested for 3 years hardly flower or produce fruit. Although H. pungens can affect the growth of growing tips of cacti, unlike cochineal beetles (Dactylopius spp.) it does not affect mature tissue. Eventually the entire plant dies, including the underground tubers. Regrowth from seeds or tubers may become infested and also die (McFadyen and Tomley, 1981a; ARC-Plant Protection Research Institute, 2002). H. pungens has also been reported on roots of the host plants (Süss and Trematerra, 1986; Ben-Dov, 1994; Miller et al., 2014).
List of Symptoms/SignsTop of page
|Growing point / distortion|
|Growing point / external feeding|
|Inflorescence / external feeding|
|Leaves / abnormal leaf fall|
|Leaves / external feeding|
|Roots / external feeding|
|Stems / distortion|
|Stems / external feeding|
|Stems / witches broom|
|Whole plant / distortion; rosetting|
|Whole plant / external feeding|
|Whole plant / plant dead; dieback|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
There are three nymphal instars in the female and four in the male, all are deep pink in colour including the adult males. All stages secrete white, waxy threads.
Reproduction is sexual and parthenogenesis is not known to occur. Oviposition starts about 3 weeks after fertilization, and females lay 2-4 eggs per day on the growing tip or meristem of the branches for up to 35 days. Tiny pink nymphs (crawlers) less than 1 mm in diameter hatch from the eggs within about 20 minutes of oviposition. They show positive phototropism, climbing to the tip of stems from where they may be dispersed by the wind. They then settle to feed in a protected position, such as at the base of a spine, in a crack or between buds on a stem.
At the end of the second instar, male nymphs move to a more exposed part of the plant, where they go through prepupal and pupal stages. The mature males emerge about a month later and fly away to find females to fertilize. Males do not feed and live for only a couple of days. Female nymphs reach sexual maturity about a month after hatching and adult females live for 50-90 days. There is no diapause and mealybugs continue to develop and breed throughout the winter, but at a slower rate than in the summer (McFadyen, 1979; ARC-Plant Protection Research Institute, 2002).
Physiology and Phenology
ClimateTop of page
|BS - Steppe climate||Preferred||> 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation|
|BW - Desert climate||Preferred||< 430mm annual precipitation|
|Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year||Preferred||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year|
|Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer||Preferred||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers|
|Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter||Preferred||Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)|
Natural enemiesTop of page
|Natural enemy||Type||Life stages||Specificity||References||Biological control in||Biological control on|
|Anagyrus cachamai||Parasite||Adults/Nymphs||not specific|
|Anagyrus quilmes||Parasite||Adults/Nymphs||not specific|
|Aprostocetus||Parasite||Nymphs/Whole plant||not specific|
|Exochomus marginipennis||Predator||Adults/Nymphs||not specific|
|Gyranusoidea pseudococci||Parasite||Adults/Nymphs||not specific|
|Homalotylus flaminius||Parasite||Adults/Nymphs||not specific|
|Kalodiplosis floridana||Parasite||Adults/Nymphs||not specific|
|Prochiloneurus dactylopii||Parasite||Adults/Nymphs||not specific|
|Triommata coccidivora||Parasite||Adults/Nymphs||not specific|
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
In Argentina H. pungens is kept under control by a complex of natural enemies, including predatory coccinellids (Hyperaspidius trimaculatus and Diomus sp.), and parasitic species of the encyrtid genus Anagyrus (Anagyrus sp. nr. pseudococci and an unidentified species) and a species of the signiphorid Signiphora. In laboratory studies, the cecidomyiid parasitoid Kalodiplosis floridana has shown promise as a potential biological control agent of H. pungens (McFadyen, 1979; McFadyen and Tomley, 1981a; Zimmermann and Pérez Sandi Cuen, 2010).
Recently, two new species of encyrtid, Anagyrus cachamai and Anagyrus quilmes, were recorded as parasitoids of H. pungens on Alternanthera paronychioides, Alternanthera pungens and Gomphrena sp. in Argentina. These parasitoids may be of importance as potential candidate biological control agents against H. pungens (Triapitsyn et al., 2014b). In another study in Argentina, a species of the encyrtid Leptomastidea was recorded for the first time as a primary parasitoid of Hypogeococcus spp., including H. pungens (Triapitsyn et al., 2014a). Two hyperparasitoids (most likely attacking Anagyrus spp.) were recovered from H. pungens in the same study and identified as Chartocerus ?axillaris (Signiphoridae) and an undescribed species of Prochiloneurus (Encyrtidae) (Triapitsyn et al., 2014a).
Several predators were recorded attacking H. pungens in Queensland, Australia, but were not effective in controlling populations (McFadyen and Tomley, 1981a). In South Africa, there are reports of predation of H. pungens by various coccinellid beetles (including species of Exochomus, Chilocorus, Nephus and Cybocephalus) and larvae of the noctuid Autoba costimaculata, and parasitism by the encyrtid Homalotylus flaminius, an unidentified cecidomyiid, an unidentified signiphorid and a reduviid, but their impact was not quantified (Zimmermann and Pérez Sandi Cuen, 2010; Paterson et al., 2011). Predation by the coccinellids gave high mortality but as they are not host specific they were not considered suitable as biological control agents (Zimmermann and Pérez Sandi Cuen, 2010).
In Florida, USA, populations of H. pungens appear to be kept under control by natural enemies and these may prove to be suitable as biological control agents of the pest in Puerto Rico. These include the coccinellid Exochomus marginipennis and the chamaemyiid Leucopsis, and parasitoids are the encyrtids Gyranusoidea pseudococci, Prochiloneurus dactylopii, Leptomastidea sp. and the eulophid Aprostocetus sp. (CPHST Biological Control Unit, 2010).
Adults and larvae of a new species of coccinellid, Decadiomus seini, were reported feeding on H. pungens in dry forest districts of Puerto Rico (Segarra-Carmona and Otero, 2014). Parasitoid wasps of the encyrtid genus Leptomastidea have also been identified as important natural enemies of H. pungens in the Caribbean region. Three populations of Leptomastidea spp. were identified attacking H. pungens in Barbados, Puerto Rico and Florida. Minor morphological and genetic differences between these populations suggest the possibility of taxonomical divergence, providing evidence for the differentiation of Leptomastidea spp. in Puerto Rico from other Caribbean populations. This could lead to distinctive biological control potential (Rodrigues et al., 2012).
Natural enemy populations will be negatively impacted by any pesticide or horticultural oil applications used for the control of H. pungens or other species (Hodges and Hodges, 2009).
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
In addition to crawling and wind dispersal, the tiny pink nymphs that emerge from the eggs (crawlers) are thought to be dispersed on the coats of kangaroos and feral pigs in Australia (McFadyen and Tomley, 1981a) and by birds and small mammals feeding on contaminated fruit or stems in South Africa (Klein, 1999).
Pathway CausesTop of page
Pathway VectorsTop of page
Plant TradeTop of page
|Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transport||Pest stages||Borne internally||Borne externally||Visibility of pest or symptoms|
|Flowers/Inflorescences/Cones/Calyx||adults; nymphs||Yes||Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye|
|Leaves||adults; nymphs||Yes||Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye|
|Roots||adults; nymphs||Yes||Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye|
|Seedlings/Micropropagated plants||adults; nymphs||Yes||Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye|
|Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches||adults; nymphs||Yes||Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye|
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Economic/livelihood||Positive and negative|
|Environment (generally)||Positive and negative|
Environmental ImpactTop of page
H. pungens has become an invasive species in several parts of the world, including Europe, North America and the Caribbean, probably through the ornamental plant trade (Mazzeo et al., 2014; Pellizzari and Porcelli, 2014). In Puerto Rico it is now causing severe damage to several species of native columnar cacti in the subfamily Cactoideae (Zimmermann and Pérez Sandi Cuen, 2010; AL Roda, USDA, unpublished data, cited in German-Ramirez et al., 2014; Triapitsyn et al., 2014a) and the mealybug is a threat to native cacti in Florida and Hawaii (USA), Barbados and other Caribbean islands (German-Ramirez et al., 2014; Triapitsyn et al. 2014a,b). H. pungens would pose a potentially serious threat to the rich diversity of cacti in Mexico if were to become established there because these cacti are the foundation of many desert ecosystems where they sustain vertebrate and invertebrate biodiversity. Biological control using parasitoids and predators may help to keep infestations under control, but even slight feeding by the pest may distort plant growth and cause aesthetic damage to native cacti in the USA and Caribbean (Zimmermann and Pérez Sandi Cuen, 2010; German-Ramirez et al., 2014). It is also predicted to spread from mainland Puerto Rico to the islands where the threatened higo chumbo cactus Harrisia portoricensis is endemic (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010).
Threatened SpeciesTop of page
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page Invasiveness
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Has a broad native range
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Host damage
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Negatively impacts trade/international relations
- Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
- Difficult to identify/detect in the field
UsesTop of page
H. pungens has successfully been used for the biological control of invasive cacti in the subfamily Cactoideae in South Africa and Australia. Incorrectly identified as H. festerianus, it was introduced from Argentina and first released in Queensland, Australia, in 1975 to control harrisia cactus (Eriocereus martinii [Harrisia martinii]), Eriocereus bonplandii [Harrisia bonplandii], Eriocereus tortuosus and related genera. By 1978 it was widely established and, by 1979, control was so successful that chemical control was discontinued (McFadyen, 1979; McFadyen and Tomley, 1981a,b; Tomley and McFadyen, 1985; Williams and Granara de Willink, 1992, in Mazzeo et al., 2008).
In 1983 a starter colony from Australia was introduced to South Africa for the control of Harrisia martinii and queen of the night cactus (Cereus jamacaru), where it reduced fruit production and led to the death of both seedlings and large plants (Moran and Zimmermann, 1991; ARC-Plant Protection Research Institute, 2002; US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010; Paterson et al., 2011).
In both Australia and South Africa the mealybug provided good control of invasive Harrisia species and was not recorded on any host outside the subfamily Cactoideae. However, H. pungens has been identified feeding on several other plant families not related to the Cactaceae elsewhere in the world, indicating either that the species has host-adapted biotypes or that there are two cryptic species (Zimmermann and Pérez Sandi Cuen, 2010).
As a result of the poor dispersal ability of H. pungens, manual redistribution of mealybugs during the growing phase of the cacti in the spring and summer is often necessary in biological control programmes. In sparse infestations on cactus hosts, wind dispersal of crawlers becomes inefficient because most crawlers miss their target hosts. In addition, rainfall can dislodge adults and crawlers from the plants (Tomley and McFadyen, 1985; Moran and Zimmermann, 1991; ARC-Plant Protection Research Institute, 2002; Hodges and Hodges, 2009; Paterson et al., 2011). Healthy plants are easily infected by contaminated plant material and it is not necessary to maintain laboratory cultures of the insect (Klein, 1999).
Treatments of the cacti with herbicides, e.g. MSMA, will kill the plants and the insects because they are sessile. Applications of herbicides tend to target dense aggregations of plants and overlook small, isolated plants and so herbicidal control methods are in direct conflict with biological control (ARC-Plant Protection Research Institute, 2002).
Uses ListTop of page
- Biological control
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
Early detection programmes, efficient phytosanitary measures and regular inspection of nurseries are essential to limit the spread of H. pungens (Zimmermann and Pérez Sandi Cuen, 2010; Zimmermann et al., 2010).
Pruning can be effective against small infestations but is too labour-intensive and difficult to apply if the infested species occurs over large areas.
The most likely option for the control of field infestations of the pest is the use of biological control agents. Several parasitoids and predators have been identified as potential biological control agents of H. pungens (e.g. the cecidomyiid Kalodiplosis floridana; McFadyen, 1979; Zimmermann and Pérez Sandi Cuen, 2010). Studies are being carried out in Puerto Rico to test the effectiveness of two parasitoids, the encyrtid Leptomastidea nr. antillicola and the cecidomyiid Diadiplosis coccidivora, to determine whether they should be considered for mass rearing and release efforts (CPHST Biological Control Unit, 2010). It is possible that specialized natural enemies of congeneric species in Mexico may prove to be suitable biological control agents if H. pungens were to invade Mexico.
Although chemical control of H. pungens may be possible in nurseries and commercial cultivations, it is uneconomic and unfeasible in the field, where infestations are often in remote areas.
ReferencesTop of page
Arakelian G, 2013. Harrisia cactus mealybug (Hypogeococcus pungens). Los Angeles, California, USA: County of Los Angeles Department of Agricultural Commissioner/Weights and Measures, 2 pp
ARC-Plant Protection Research Institute, 2002. Biological control of invasive cactus species (family Cactaceae); harrisia cactus mealybug (Hypogeococcus pungens). PPRI Leaflet Series: Weeds Biocontrol, 2.5. South Africa: Plant Protection Research Institute, Agricultural Research Council
Beltrà A, Soto A, Malausa T, 2012. Molecular and morphological characterisation of Pseudococcidae surveyed on crops and ornamental plants in Spain. Bulletin of Entomological Research, 102(2):165-172. http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayJournal?jid=ber
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26/08/2015 Original text by:
Angela Whittaker, Consultant, UK
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