Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Hypogeococcus pungens
(cactus mealybug)

Toolbox

Datasheet

Hypogeococcus pungens (cactus mealybug)

Pictures

Top of page
PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Hypogeococcus pungens (Harrisia cactus mealybug); infestation.
TitleInfestation
CaptionHypogeococcus pungens (Harrisia cactus mealybug); infestation.
Copyright©Lyle J. Buss/Entomology & Nematology Dept./University of Florida - All Rights Reserved
Hypogeococcus pungens (Harrisia cactus mealybug); infestation.
InfestationHypogeococcus pungens (Harrisia cactus mealybug); infestation.©Lyle J. Buss/Entomology & Nematology Dept./University of Florida - All Rights Reserved
Hypogeococcus pungens (Harrisia cactus mealybug); early and late instar nymphs.
TitleNymphs
CaptionHypogeococcus pungens (Harrisia cactus mealybug); early and late instar nymphs.
Copyright©Lyle J. Buss/Entomology & Nematology Dept./University of Florida - All Rights Reserved
Hypogeococcus pungens (Harrisia cactus mealybug); early and late instar nymphs.
NymphsHypogeococcus pungens (Harrisia cactus mealybug); early and late instar nymphs.©Lyle J. Buss/Entomology & Nematology Dept./University of Florida - All Rights Reserved
Hypogeococcus pungens (Harrisia cactus mealybug); adult male (dorsal view) and nymphs.
TitleMale and nymphs
CaptionHypogeococcus pungens (Harrisia cactus mealybug); adult male (dorsal view) and nymphs.
Copyright©Lyle J. Buss/Entomology & Nematology Dept./University of Florida - All Rights Reserved
Hypogeococcus pungens (Harrisia cactus mealybug); adult male (dorsal view) and nymphs.
Male and nymphsHypogeococcus pungens (Harrisia cactus mealybug); adult male (dorsal view) and nymphs.©Lyle J. Buss/Entomology & Nematology Dept./University of Florida - All Rights Reserved
Hypogeococcus pungens (Harrisia cactus mealybug); lateral view of an adult male.
TitleAdult male
CaptionHypogeococcus pungens (Harrisia cactus mealybug); lateral view of an adult male.
Copyright©Lyle J. Buss/Entomology & Nematology Dept./University of Florida - All Rights Reserved
Hypogeococcus pungens (Harrisia cactus mealybug); lateral view of an adult male.
Adult maleHypogeococcus pungens (Harrisia cactus mealybug); lateral view of an adult male.©Lyle J. Buss/Entomology & Nematology Dept./University of Florida - All Rights Reserved

Identity

Top 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 Invasiveness

Top 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 Tree

Top of page

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top 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 inGranara de Willink (1981) and Williams and Granara de Willink (1992).

Description

Top 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.

Distribution

Top 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 Table

Top 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.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Africa

South AfricaPresentIntroduced1983 Invasive Moran and Zimmermann, 1991
Spain
-Canary IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive Zimmermann and Pérez Sandi Cuen, 2010

North America

USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-CaliforniaPresentIntroduced Not invasive Zimmermann and Pérez Sandi Cuen, 2010; Arakelian, 2013
-FloridaPresentIntroduced1984 Invasive Hamon, 1984; Downie and Gullan, 2004; Zimmermann and Pérez Sandi Cuen, 2010Hollywood
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced2005Hodges and Hodges, 2009; German-Ramirez et al., 2014

Central America and Caribbean

BarbadosPresentIntroduced Invasive Zimmermann and Pérez Sandi Cuen, 2010
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroduced2010 Invasive German-Ramirez et al., 2014
GuadeloupePresentIntroduced Invasive Matile-Ferrero and Etienne, 2006
MartiniquePresentIntroduced2003 Invasive Germain and Grassart, 2005; Matile-Ferrero and Etienne, 2006
Puerto RicoPresentIntroduced2002 Invasive Segarra-Carmona et al., 2010; Zimmermann et al., 2010
Saint LuciaPresentMalumphy, 2014via PestLens newsletter
United States Virgin IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive Zimmermann and Pérez Sandi Cuen, 2010St. Thomas

South America

ArgentinaPresentNative Not invasive Granara de Willink, 1981; Ben-Dov, 1994
BoliviaPresentNative Not invasive Zimmermann and Pérez Sandi Cuen, 2010; Zimmermann et al., 2010
BrazilPresentNative Not invasive Williams and Granara de Willink, 1992; Ben-Dov, 1994
ParaguayPresentNative Not invasive Williams and Granara de Willink, 1992; Ben-Dov, 1994
PeruPresentNative Not invasive Williams and Granara de Willink, 1992; Ben-Dov, 1994
UruguayPresentNative Not invasive Zimmermann et al., 2010

Europe

FrancePresentIntroduced2002 Invasive Ben-Dov et al., 2002
-CorsicaPresentIntroduced Invasive Pellizzari and Germain, 2010
GreecePresentIntroduced Invasive Ben-Dov et al., 2002
ItalyPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced1986 Invasive Suss and Trematerra, 1986Liguria
SpainPresentIntroduced2008 Invasive Beltrà and Soto, 2011Valencia

Oceania

AustraliaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-QueenslandPresentIntroduced1975 Invasive McFadyen, 1979

History of Introduction and Spread

Top 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).

Introductions

Top of page
Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Queensland Argentina 1975 Biological control (pathway cause) Yes McFadyen (1979)
South Africa Australia 1983 Biological control (pathway cause) Yes Moran and Zimmermann (1991)

Risk of Introduction

Top 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. 

Habitat

Top of page

H. pungens lives in clusters of individuals on the stem or growing tips (apex) of the cactus host.

Habitat List

Top of page
CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial-managed
Protected agriculture (e.g. glasshouse production) Present, no further details
Terrestrial-natural/semi-natural
Arid regions Present, no further details
Deserts Present, no further details

Hosts/Species Affected

Top 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 Affected

Top of page

Growth Stages

Top of page Flowering stage, Vegetative growing stage

Symptoms

Top 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/Signs

Top of page
SignLife StagesType
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 Ecology

Top of page

Reproductive Biology

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

Although usually sessile, all feeding stages, including the adult females, can move if conditions become unfavourable (McFadyen, 1979; ARC-Plant Protection Research Institute, 2002). 

Climate

Top of page
ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
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 enemies

Top of page
Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Anagyrus cachamai Parasite Adults/Nymphs not specific
Anagyrus quilmes Parasite Adults/Nymphs not specific
Aprostocetus Parasite Nymphs/Whole plant not specific
Chilocorus Predator Adults/Nymphs not specific
Cybocephalus Predator Adults/Nymphs not specific
Decadiomus seini Predator
Diomus Predator Adults/Nymphs not specific
Exochomus Predator Adults/Nymphs not specific
Exochomus marginipennis Predator Adults/Nymphs not specific
Gyranusoidea pseudococci Parasite Adults/Nymphs not specific
Homalotylus flaminius Parasite Adults/Nymphs not specific
Hyperaspidius trimaculatus Predator
Kalodiplosis floridana Parasite Adults/Nymphs not specific
Leptomastidea Parasite Adults/Nymphs
Leucopis Parasite Adults/Nymphs not specific
Nephus Predator Adults/Nymphs not specific
Prochiloneurus dactylopii Parasite Adults/Nymphs not specific
Signiphora Parasite Adults/Nymphs not specific
Triommata coccidivora Parasite Adults/Nymphs not specific

Notes on Natural Enemies

Top 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 paronychioidesAlternanthera 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 Dispersal

Top 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 Vectors

Top of page
VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Plants or parts of plants Yes
Wind Yes McFadyen, 1979

Plant Trade

Top of page
Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transportPest stagesBorne internallyBorne externallyVisibility 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 Summary

Top of page
CategoryImpact
Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Positive and negative

Environmental Impact

Top 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 Species

Top of page
Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Harrisia portoricensis (higo chumbo)USA ESA listing as threatened species USA ESA listing as threatened speciesPuerto RicoHerbivory/grazing/browsingUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Gregarious
Impact outcomes
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Host damage
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
  • Negatively impacts trade/international relations
Impact mechanisms
  • Herbivory/grazing/browsing
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Difficult to identify/detect in the field

Uses

Top 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 List

Top of page

Environmental

  • Biological control

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page
One of the distinguishing features of H. pungens is the presence of three circuli on the ventral side of the abdomen in the adult female (Hodges and Hodges, 2009; Miller et al., 2014), each circulus being an area of cuticle that functions as an adhesive organ (Williams, 1978). H. pungens is similar to its congeners H. festerianus and H. spinosus, but may be distinguished from these species by the presence of these three circuli and the absence of dorsal conical setae on the head and thorax. H. festerianus has one circulus and conical setae on the head and thorax, while H. spinosus has one circulus but lacks conical setae on the head and thorax (Williams and Granara de Willink, 1992; Miller et al., 2014).
 
H. pungens is also sometimes confused with Maconellicoccus hirsutus (the pink hibiscus mealybug) and M. margaretae but differs from these species in having three circuli rather than a single circulus (Hodges and Hodges, 2009) and fewer than nine antennal segments, whereas Maconellicoccus species have nine antennal segments.

Prevention and Control

Top of page

Control

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).

Physical/mechanical control

Pruning can be effective against small infestations but is too labour-intensive and difficult to apply if the infested species occurs over large areas.

Biological control

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.

Chemical control

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.

References

Top 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, 2011. New records of mealybugs (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) from Spain. Phytoparasitica, 39(4):385-387. http://www.springerlink.com/content/w243808608u27l68/

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

Ben-Dov Y, 1994. A systematic catalogue of the mealybugs of the world (Insecta: Homoptera: Coccoidea: Pseudococcidae and Putoidae) with data on geographical distribution, host plants, biology and economic importance. Andover, UK: Intercept Limited, 686 pp.

Ben-Dov Y; Matile-Ferrero D; Stathas G, 2002. New records of Hypogeococcus pungens in the Palaearctic region (Hem., Pseudococcidae). (New records of Hypogeococcus pungens in the Palaearctic region (Hem., Pseudococcidae). Bulletin de la Societe Entomologique de France, 107(2):186.

Ben-Dov Y; Miller DR; Gibson GAP, 2015. ScaleNet: a database of the scale insects of the world. Beltsville, Maryland, USA: United States Department of Agriculture. http://www.sel.barc.usda.gov/scalenet/scalenet.htm

Claps LE; Haro ME de, 2001. Coccoidea (Insecta: Hemiptera) associated with Cactaceae in Argentina. Journal of the Professional Association for Cactus Development, 4:77-83.

CPHST Biological Control Unit, 2010. 2010 annual report. US Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Plant Protection and Quarantine, Centre for Plant Health Science and Technology, 52 pp.

Downie DA; Gullan PJ, 2004. Phylogenetic analysis of mealybugs (Hemiptera: Coccoidea: Pseudococcidae) based on DNA sequences from three nuclear genes, and a review of the higher classification. Systematic Entomology, 29(2):238-259.

Germain J-F, 2008. Invasive scale insects (Hemiptera: Coccoidea) recorded from France. Proceedings of the XI International Symposium on Scale Insect Studies, Oeiras, Portugal, 24-27 September 2007 [ed. by Branco, M. \Franco, J. C. \Hodgson (eds), C. J.]. Lisbon, Portugal: ISA Press, 77-87.

Germain J-F; Grassart L, 2005. First occurrence into Martinique (French West Indies) one pit scale and four mealybugs. Proceedings of the X international symposium on scale insect studies, held at Plant Protection Research Institute, Adana, Turkey, 19-23 April 2004 [ed. by Erkilic, L. \Kaydan, M. B.]. Adana, Turkey: Adana Zirai Muscadele Arastirma Enstitusu, 408 pp.

German-Ramirez E; Kairo MTK; Stocks I; Haseeb M; Serra CA, 2014. New record of Hypogeococcus pungens (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) in the Dominican Republic with comments on specific characters. Florida Entomologist, 97(1):320-321. http://www.fcla.edu/FlaEnt/

Granara de Willink MC, 1981. New species of Hypogeococcus Rau of Tucumán, Argentina Republic. (Nueva especie de Hypogeococcus Rau de Tucumán, República Argentina (Homoptera Pseudococcidae). Neotropica, 27:61-65.

Halbert SE, 1996. Entomology section. Tri-ology, 35:2-4.

Hamon AB, 1984. A cactus mealybug, Hypogeococcus festerianus (Lizer y Trelles), in Florida (Homoptera: Coccoidea: Pseudococcidae). Entomology Circular, Division of Plant Industry, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, No. 263. 2 pp.

Hodges A; Hodges G, 2009. Hypogeococcus pungens Granara de Willink (Insecta: Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae), a mealybug. EENY459. IFAS Extension., USA: University of Florida. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/IN/IN82700.pdf

Klein H, 1999. Biological control of three cactaceous weeds, Pereskia aculeata Miller, Harrisia martinii (Labouret) Britton and Cereus jamacaru De Candolle in South Africa. Biological control of weeds in South Africa (1990-1998) [ed. by Olckers, T.\Hill, M. P.]. Pretoria, South Africa: Entomological Society of Southern Africa, 3-14.

Longo S; Marotta S; Pellizzari G; Russo A; Tranfaglia A, 1995. An annotated list of the scale insects (Homoptera: Coccidea) of Italy. Israel Journal of Entomology, 29:113-130.

Longo S; Marotta S; Pellizzari G; Russo A; Tranfaglia A, 1995. An annotated list of the scale insects (Homoptera: Coccidea) of Italy. Israel Journal of Entomology, 29:113-130.

Malumphy C, 2014. An annotated checklist of scale insects (Hemiptera: Coccoidea) of Saint Lucia, Lesser Antilles. Zootaxa, 3846(1):69-86. http://www.mapress.com/zootaxa/2014/f/zt03846p086.pdf

Matile-Ferrero D; Etienne J, 2006. Mealybugs in the French Caribbean and some other Caribbean islands (Hemiptera, Coccoidea). (Cochenilles des Antilles francaises et de quelques autres iles des Caraibes (Hemiptera, Coccoidea). Revue Francaise d'Entomologie, 28(4):161-190.

Mazzeo G; Longo S; Pellizzari G; Porcelli F; Suma P; Russo A, 2014. Exotic scale insects (Coccoidea) on ornamental plants in Italy: a never-ending story. Acta Zoologica Bulgarica, Supplement, 6. 55-61.

Mazzeo G; Suma P; Russo A, 2008. Scale insects on succulent plants in southern Italy. Proceedings of the XI international symposium on scale insect studies, Oeiras, Portugal, 24-27 September 2007 [ed. by Branco, M. \Franco, \J. C. \Hodgson, C. J.]. Lisbon, Portugal: ISA Press, 149-152.

McFadyen RE, 1979. The cactus mealybug Hypogeococcus festerianus (Hem.: Pseudococcidae) an agent for the biological control of Eriocereus martinii (Cactaceae) in Australia. Entomophaga, 24(3):281-287.

McFadyen RE; Tomley AJ, 1981. Biological control of harrisia cactus, Eriocereus martinii, in Queensland by the mealy bug, Hypogeococcus festerianus. In: Proceedings of the 5th international symposium on biological control of weeds. Australia: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, 589-594.

McFadyen RE; Tomley AJ, 1981. The successful biological control of harrisia cactus (Eriocereus martinii) in Queensland. Proceedings of the 6th Australian weed conference, 1. 139-143.

Miller D; Rung A; Parikh G; Venable G; Redford AJ; Evans GA; Gill RJ, 2014. Scale insects: identification tool for species of quarantine significance, second edition. Fort Collins, Colorado: USDA APHIS Identification Technology Program (ITP). http://idtools.org/id/scales/

Moran VC; Zimmermann HG, 1991. Biological control of cactus weeds of minor importance in South Africa. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 37(1-3):37-55.

Paterson ID; Hoffmann JH; Klein H; Mathenge CW; Neser S; Zimmermann HG, 2011. Biological control of Cactaceae in South Africa. African Entomology, 19(2):230-246. http://journals.sabinet.co.za/essa

Pellizzari G; Germain JF, 2010. Scales (Hemiptera, superfamily Coccoidea). Chapter 9. Alien terrestrial arthropods of Europe. BioRisk, 4(1):475-510.

Pellizzari G; Porcelli F, 2014. Alien scale insects (Hemiptera Coccoidea) in European and Mediterranean countries: the fate of new and old introductions. Phytoparasitica, 42(5):713-721. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs12600-014-0414-5

Rodrigues JC; Galindo-Cardona A; Ciompelink M; Segarra A; Roda A, 2012. Molecular characterization of Leptomastidea spp. (Encyrtidae, Hymenoptera) populations from Puerto Rico, Barbados and Florida. In: QBOL-EPPO conference on barcoding and diagnostic methods for plant pests. 2012-5-21/25. Haarlem, Netherlands.

Segarra-Carmona AE; Otero M, 2014. Four new ladybug species belonging to Decadiomus Chapin (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) from Puerto Rico. Neotropical Entomology, 43(6):555-563. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs13744-014-0243-8

Segarra-Carmona AE; Ramírez-Lluch A; Cabrera-Asencio I; Jiménez-López AN, 2010. First report of a new invasive mealybug, the Harrisia cactus mealybug Hypogeococcus pungens (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae). Journal of Agriculture of the University of Puerto Rico, 94(1/2):183-187.

Suss L; Trematerra P, 1986. Hypogeococcus festerianus (Lizer and Trelles), harmful to the Cacti ornamentali in Liguria. (Hypogeococcus festerianus (Lizer y Trelles), nocivo alle Cactacee ornamentali in Liguria). Informatore Fitopatologico, 10:43-46.

The Plant List, 2013. The Plant List: a working list of all plant species. Version 1.1. London, UK: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. http://www.theplantlist.org

Tomley AJ; McFadyen RE, 1985. Biological control of harrisia cactus, Ericereus martinii, in central Queensland by the mealybug, Hypogeococcus festerianus, nine years after release. Proceedings of the VI international symposium of the biological control of Weeds, 19-25 August 1984 [ed. by Delfosse, E. S.]. Vancouver, Canada 843-847. http://bugwoodcloud.org/ibiocontrol/proceedings/pdf/6_843-847.pdf

Triapitsyn SV; Aguirre MB; Logarzo GA; Molin Adal, 2014. Taxonomic notes on primary and secondary parasitoids (Hymenoptera: Encyrtidae and Signiphoridae) of Hypogeococcus spp. (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) in Argentina. Acta Zoologica Lilloana, 58(2):171-186. http://lillo.org.ar/revis/zoo/58-2/01.pdf

Triapitsyn SV; Logarzo GA; Aguirre MB; Aquino DA, 2014. Two new species of Anagyrus (Hymenoptera: Encyrtidae) from Argentina, parasitoids of Hypogeococcus spp. (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae), with taxonomic notes on some congeneric taxa. Zootaxa, 3861(3):201-230. http://www.mapress.com/zootaxa/2014/f/z03861p230f.pdf

US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010. Higo chumbo (Harrisia portoricensis). 5-year review: summary and evaluation. Boqueron, Puerto Rico: US Fish and Wildlife Service, Southeast Region, Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office, 19 pp.

Weaver PL, 2011. Early recovery of subtropical dry forest in south-western Puerto Rico. Bois et Forêts des Tropiques, No.310:11-23. http://bft.revuesonline.com

Williams DJ, 1973. Two cactus-feeding mealybugs from Argentina (Homoptera, Coccoidea, Pseudococcidae). Bulletin of Entomological Research, 62(4):565-570.

Williams DJ, 1978. The anomalous ant-attended mealybugs (Homoptera: Pseudococcidae) of south-east Asia. Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History), 37(1). 1-72.

Williams DJ; Granara de Willink MC, 1992. Mealybugs of Central and South America. Wallingford, UK: CAB International.

Zimmermann HG; Cuen MPS; Mandujano MC; Golubov J, 2010. The South American mealybug that threatens North American cacti. Cactus and Succulent Journal, 82(3):105-107. http://www.cssainc.org/index.php

Zimmermann HG; Pérez Sandi Cuen M, 2010. The threat of mealybugs Hypogeococcus pungens and Hypogeococcus festerianus (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) to Mexican and Caribbean cactus. (La amenaza de los piojos harinosos Hypogeococcus pungens e Hypogeococcus festerianus (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) a las cactáceas mexicanas y del Caribe). Cactáceas y Suculentas Mexicanas, 55(1):4-17. http://www.mexican.cactus-society.org/english.html

Contributors

Top of page

26/08/2015 Original text by:

Angela Whittaker, Consultant, UK

Distribution Maps

Top of page
You can pan and zoom the map
Save map