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Datasheet

Aleurotrachelus atratus
(palm-infesting whitefly)

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Datasheet

Aleurotrachelus atratus (palm-infesting whitefly)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 27 September 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Natural Enemy
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Aleurotrachelus atratus
  • Preferred Common Name
  • palm-infesting whitefly
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Arthropoda
  •       Subphylum: Uniramia
  •         Class: Insecta
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • The whitefly A. atratus is a highly invasive pest of coconut and ornamental palms (Arecaceae). Before the 1990s this species was only known to feed on coconut from Brazil (...

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    Compendia
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    Wallingford
    Oxfordshire
    OX10 8DE
    UK
    compend@cabi.org
  • Distribution map More information

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Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Aleurotrachelus atratus

Preferred Common Name

  • palm-infesting whitefly

Local Common Names

  • Comoros: coconut whitefly
  • Seychelles: coconut whitefly

Summary of Invasiveness

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The whitefly A. atratus is a highly invasive pest of coconut and ornamental palms (Arecaceae). Before the 1990s this species was only known to feed on coconut from Brazil (Hempel, 1922; Mound and Halsey, 1978), but since 2001 it has been reported widely in the tropics and subtropics on more than a hundred plant species and is known to be invasive in Cape Verde, Comoros, Mauritius, Mozambique and the Seychelles. Mainly thelytokous, it is oligophagous on perennial palms, and has winged adults, all of which allows it to naturalize in new areas after accidental introduction on host plant material. It has also been found on indoor plantings of palms in botanical collections in temperate regions (Malumphy and Tresedar, 2011). The biology, host range and increasing geographical distribution of A. atratus have been studied in detail by Borowiec et al. (2010), and reviewed by Malumphy and Tresedar (2011).

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Arthropoda
  •             Subphylum: Uniramia
  •                 Class: Insecta
  •                     Order: Hemiptera
  •                         Suborder: Sternorrhyncha
  •                             Unknown: Aleyrodoidea
  •                                 Family: Aleyrodidae
  •                                     Genus: Aleurotrachelus
  •                                         Species: Aleurotrachelus atratus

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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A. atratus is a Neotropical whitefly, originally described by Hempel (1922) from specimens collected from coconut (Cocos nucifera) in Brazil. This species is assigned to the genus Aleurotrachelus in the subfamily Aleurodinae. Aleurotrachelus is one of the largest genera of whiteflies and currently contains 74 species (Martin and Mound, 2007). This genus may need taxonomic revision because it contains species that are probably unrelated morphologically. This genus was sometimes used to place several species of doubtful identity (Martin, 2005).

Description

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A. atratus puparia are elliptical, black, 1.0-1.1 mm long with a long marginal white wax fringe and dorsal wax filaments that often completely cover the insect. The puparia often occur in dense colonies that smother the underside of the fronds with puparia, wax secretions and honeydew, on which sooty moulds grow.

The body of A. atratus is dark yellow. All four larval stages of A. atratus are black. The first instars have four pairs of wax plumes excreted by glands at the base of dorsal setae. Each dorsal seta has curving longitudinal grooves that guide the wax flakes as they are secreted from the seta base. When the wax has been removed, each puparium can be seen to have a distinct diagnostic pair of submarginal longitudinal cephalothoracic folds that extend into the abdomen (Malumphy and Tresedar, 2011).

There are no comprehensive diagnostic keys available to Aleurotrachelus, which is one of the largest genera of whiteflies, containing 74 species (Martin and Mound, 2007), several of which are quite unrelated morphologically. Whitefly taxonomy is based on the morphology of the fourth-larval instar, commonly known as the pupa or puparium. A. atratus pupae require slide mounting and examination by a specialist for reliable determination. Photographs of diagnostic morphological characters of a slide-mounted pupa of A. atratus are provided by Streito et al. (2004) and Walker (2008).

The type specimens were collected on coconut in Brazil (Hempel, 1922).

Distribution

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A. atratus is native to Brazil, but since the late 1990s it has spread rapidly, probably due to anthropogenic activities such as trade in ornamental palms. It is now found in Africa, North and South America, Central America and the Caribbean, Europe and Oceania.

Distribution Table

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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

Cape VerdePresentIntroduced Invasive Borowiec et al., 2010
ComorosPresentIntroduced Invasive Borowiec et al., 2010
MadagascarPresentIntroducedBorowiec et al., 2010
MauritiusPresentIntroduced Invasive Borowiec et al., 2010Invasive on a local scale
MayottePresentIntroducedBorowiec et al., 2010
MozambiquePresentIntroduced Invasive Borowiec et al., 2010
RéunionPresentIntroducedBorowiec et al., 2010Invasive on a local scale
SenegalPresentMuniappan et al., 2012
SeychellesPresentIntroduced Invasive Borowiec et al., 2010
Spain
-Canary IslandsPresentIntroduced Not invasive Hernández-Suárez et al., 2003
UgandaPresentIntroducedBorowiec et al., 2010

North America

MexicoPresentIntroducedEvans, 2008
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-FloridaPresentIntroducedHoward et al., 2001
-HawaiiPresentIntroducedBorowiec et al., 2010

Central America and Caribbean

Antigua and BarbudaPresentIntroducedHoward et al., 2001
BahamasPresentIntroducedHoward et al., 2001
BarbadosPresentIntroducedHoward et al., 2001
Costa RicaPresentIntroducedEvans, 2008
DominicaPresentIntroducedBorowiec et al., 2010
GuatemalaPresentIntroducedBorowiec et al., 2010

South America

BrazilPresentNative Not invasive Hempel, 1922
ColombiaPresentIntroducedHoward et al., 2001
EcuadorPresentIntroducedBorowiec et al., 2010

Europe

FrancePresent only under cover/indoorsIntroduced Not invasive Borowiec et al., 2010
SpainPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
UKPresent only under cover/indoorsIntroduced Not invasive Malumphy and Treseder, 2011

Oceania

SamoaPresentIntroducedMartin, 2005

History of Introduction and Spread

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Before 2001, A. atratus was only reported from Brazil, where it was considered common on coconut palm (Lepesme 1947; Mound and Halsey, 1978). Howard et al. (2001) reported A. atratus as being widely distributed in the Neotropical region (Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Brazil, Colombia, Guyana, Nevis, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Florida, USA), but did not provide the dates that the species was first detected in each country, so it is unclear for how long A. atratus has been expanding its geographical range. As it was already widely distributed by 2001, it is likely to have been spreading for decades before then and was either overlooked or confused with other whitefly species commonly found on palms, most notably Aleurodicus species. A. atratus has since been recorded in many other countries within the Neotropical region (Evans, 2008; Delvare et al., 2008) and has spread into other geographical regions.

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Antigua and Barbuda 2001 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Howard et al. (2001)
Bahamas 2001 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Howard et al. (2001)
Barbados 2001 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Howard et al. (2001)
Bermuda 2001 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Howard et al. (2001)
Canary Islands 1998 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Hernandez-Suarez et al. (2003); Hernández-Suárez et al. (2003)
Cape Verde 2003 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Borowiec et al. (2010)
Colombia 2001 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Howard et al. (2001)
Comoros 2002 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Youssoufa et al. (2006)
Costa Rica   Yes Evans (2008)
Dominica 2001 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Borowiec et al. (2010)
Ecuador Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes
France 2010 Yes Borowiec et al. (2010) In glasshouses
Guadeloupe   Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Delvare et al. (2008)
Guatemala 2003 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Borowiec et al. (2010)
Guyana 2001 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Howard et al. (2001)
Hawaii 2006 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Wong et al. (2006)
Madagascar 2003 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Borowiec et al. (2010)
Mauritius 2003 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Borowiec et al. (2010)
Mayotte 2002 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Borowiec et al. (2010)
Mexico   Yes Evans (2008)
Mozambique   Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Borowiec et al. (2010)
Puerto Rico 2001 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Howard et al. (2001)
Réunion 1996 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Borowiec et al. (2010)
Saint Helena 2001 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Howard et al. (2001)
Saint Kitts and Nevis 2001 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Howard et al. (2001)
Saint Lucia   Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Evans (2008)
Samoa 2005 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Martin (2005)
Sao Tome and Principe 2005 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Martin (2005)
Seychelles 2007 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Borowiec et al. (2010)
Trinidad and Tobago 1999 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Borowiec et al. (2010)
Uganda 2006 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Borowiec et al. (2010)
UK 2002 Yes Malumphy and Treseder (2011) In glasshouses
United States Virgin Islands   Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Evans (2008)
USA 2001 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Howard et al. (2001)
Venezuela 2001 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Howard et al. (2001)
Windward Islands 1993 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Borowiec et al. (2010)

Risk of Introduction

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A. atratus is a highly invasive pest of palms that has spread widely in tropical and subtropical regions. It has also been found on indoor plantings in botanical collections in temperate regions. Mainly thelytokous, since only a few males have been found to date (Borowiec et al., 2010), it is oligophagous on perennial palms, and has winged adults, all of which allows it to naturalize in new areas after accidental introduction on host plant material (Malumphy and Tresedar, 2011). Although adult A. atratus are winged, they are small and fragile, and relatively poor fliers. Long distance (international) dispersal is most likely to have resulted from the trade of infested ornamental palms for planting; for example, A. atratus has been intercepted at US ports of entry on palms originating from the Caribbean (Evans, 2008), and in the UK on palms and palm foliage from the Caribbean and Central America, respectively (Malumphy and Tresedar, 2011). The eggs and early-instar larvae are small and very difficult to detect during plant health inspections. The eggs and larvae are only found on foliage, and therefore the trade in palm seeds poses a negligible risk.

Habitat List

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CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial-managed
Buildings Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Cultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Urban / peri-urban areas Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)

Hosts/Species Affected

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A. atratus has been recorded feeding on 114 host plant species belonging to five families. Most (96%) hosts are palms in the family Arecaceae. Coconut is the most commonly reported host. A. atratus is occasionally recorded on non-palm hosts, including two highly important crops, citrus and aubergine. The significance of A. atratus on non-palm hosts, however, is unclear (Malumphy and Tresedar, 2011).

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Plant nameFamilyContext
Acanthophoenix crinitaArecaceaeOther
Acanthophoenix rousseliiArecaceaeOther
Acoelorrhaphe wrightii (Everglades palm)ArecaceaeOther
Aiphanes horridaArecaceaeOther
Archonthophoenix cunninghamiana (Bangalow palm)ArecaceaeOther
Archontophoenix alexandraeArecaceaeOther
Areca catechu (betelnut palm)ArecaceaeOther
Areca ipotArecaceaeOther
Areca vestiariaArecaceaeOther
Arenga engleriArecaceaeOther
AttaleaArecaceaeOther
Bismarckia nobilisArecaceaeOther
Brahea armataArecaceaeOther
Butia capitataArecaceaeOther
CaryotaArecaceaeOther
Caryota maximaArecaceaeOther
Caryota mitisArecaceaeOther
Caryota rumphianaArecaceaeOther
Caryota urens (fishtail palm)ArecaceaeOther
Chamaedorea elegans (parlour palm)ArecaceaeOther
Chamaedorea metallicaArecaceaeOther
Chamaedorea microspadixArecaceaeOther
Chamaedorea radicalisArecaceaeOther
Chamaedorea seifriziiArecaceaeOther
Chamaedorea stoloniferaArecaceaeOther
Chamaerops humilis (dwarf fan palm)ArecaceaeOther
Chambeyronia macrocarpaArecaceaeOther
Chuniophoenix hainanensisArecaceaeOther
CitrusRutaceaeOther
CoccothrinaxArecaceaeOther
Coccothrinax argentataArecaceaeOther
Coccothrinax crinitaArecaceaeMain
Coccothrinax miraguamaArecaceaeOther
Cocos nucifera (coconut)ArecaceaeMain
Corypha umbraculiferaArecaceaeOther
CycasCycadaceaeOther
Cyphophoenix elegansArecaceaeOther
Cyrtostachys rendaArecaceaeOther
Dictyosperma albumArecaceaeMain
Dypsis cabadae (Cabada palm)ArecaceaeOther
Dypsis decipiensArecaceaeOther
Dypsis lanceolataArecaceaeOther
Dypsis lastellianaArecaceaeOther
Dypsis leptocheilosArecaceaeOther
Dypsis lutescensArecaceaeMain
Dypsis rivularisArecaceaeOther
Elaeis guineensis (African oil palm)ArecaceaeMain
Howea belmoreanaArecaceaeOther
Howea forsteriana (paradise palm)ArecaceaeOther
LataniaArecaceaeOther
Latania loddigesiiArecaceaeOther
Latania verschaffeltiiArecaceaeOther
Licuala grandisArecaceaeOther
Licuala ramsayiArecaceaeOther
Licuala spinosaArecaceaeOther
Livistona chinensis (Chinese fan palm)ArecaceaeOther
Livistona decoraArecaceaeOther
Livistona rotundifoliaArecaceaeOther
Livistona saribusArecaceaeOther
Lodoicea maldivicaArecaceaeOther
PerseaLauraceaeOther
Phoenix (date palm)ArecaceaeOther
Phoenix canariensis (Canary Island date palm)ArecaceaeOther
Phoenix dactylifera (date-palm)ArecaceaeOther
Phoenix roebelliniArecaceaeOther
Phoenix sylvestris (east Indian wine palm)ArecaceaeOther
Phytelephas aequatorialisArecaceaeOther
Pritchardia hillebrandiiArecaceaeOther
Pritchardia pacificaArecaceaeOther
Pritchardia thurstonii (Thurston palm)ArecaceaeOther
Ptychosperma caryotoidesArecaceaeOther
Ptychosperma elegansArecaceaeOther
Ptychosperma macarthurii (Macarthur palm)ArecaceaeOther
RaphiaArecaceaeOther
Roystonea oleracea (Caribbean royal palm)ArecaceaeOther
Roystonea regia (cuban royal palm)ArecaceaeOther
Sabal (palmetto-palm)ArecaceaeOther
Sabal minorArecaceaeOther
Serenoa repensArecaceaeOther
Solanum melongena (aubergine)SolanaceaeOther
Syagrus amaraArecaceaeOther
Syagrus romanzoffiana (queen palm)ArecaceaeOther
Syagrus schizophyllaArecaceaeOther
Synechanthus fibrosusArecaceaeOther
ThrinaxArecaceaeOther
Thrinax excelsaArecaceaeOther
Thrinax morrisiiArecaceaeOther
Thrinax parvifloraArecaceaeOther
Thrinax radiataArecaceaeOther
Trachycarpus fortunei (chinese windmill palm)ArecaceaeOther
Veitchia arecinaArecaceaeOther
Veitchia wininArecaceaeOther
Washingtonia filifera (desert fanpalm)ArecaceaeOther

Symptoms

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The upper surfaces of infested palm fronds often exhibit chlorosis and/or necrosis. The undersurfaces of infested fronds will be covered in dense patches of black puparia covered in conspicuous white wax secretions. The foliage, stems and fruit may be covered with sticky honeydew which serves as a medium for the growth of sooty moulds. Large whitefly infestations may cause wilting and the plant may lose vigour; consequently, there may be a decrease in fruit production.

List of Symptoms/Signs

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SignLife StagesType
Fruit / honeydew or sooty mould
Growing point / honeydew or sooty mould
Growing point / wilt
Inflorescence / wilt
Leaves / honeydew or sooty mould
Leaves / necrotic areas
Leaves / wilting
Whole plant / wilt

Biology and Ecology

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Reproductive Biology

The development of A. atratus involves six stages: egg, four larval instars and adult. A. atratus is mainly parthenogenetic (thelytoky) but some rare males were found in Réunion and Mayotte (Borowiec et al., 2010). Its development takes around 48 days to develop from egg to adulthood at 25-27°C (Borowiec et al., 2010). It is multivoltine and will breed continuously if environmental conditions are suitable.

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Cales noacki Parasite Larvae not specific Borowiec et al., 2010; Howard et al., 2001 Widespread in the warmer parts of the world Used to control woolly whitefuly Aleurothrixus floccosus on citrus
Chilocorus nigritus Parasite Larvae not specific
Encarsia brasiliensis Parasite Larvae not specific Borowiec et al., 2010
Encarsia cubensis Parasite Larvae not specific Borowiec et al., 2010
Encarsia lanceolata Parasite Larvae not specific Evans and Polaszek, 1997
Encarsia nigricephala Parasite Larvae not specific Borowiec et al., 2010; Delvare et al., 2008 Comoros, Reunion and possibly Seychelles Coconut
Eretmocerus cocois Parasite Larvae not specific Delvare et al., 2008

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Several parasitoids (Chalcidoidea, Aphelinidae) have been recorded from A. atratus: Cales noacki Howard, Encarsia cubensis Gahan, Encarsia brasiliensis (Hempel) (= hispida De Santis), Encarsia lanceolata Evans and Polaszek, Encarsia nigricephala Dozier, Eretmocerus cocois Delvare and Eretmocerus desantisi Rose (Borowiec et al., 2010; Evans and Polaszek, 1997, 1998; Delvare et al., 2008; Noyes, 2012). Moreover, Borowiec et al. (2010) recorded a new species of Encarsia on A. atratus in Réunion island. After molecular and morphological investigations, this species appeared to be Encarsia basicincta Gahan (N. Borowiec, unpublished data). Among these parasitoids, E. cocois is to date the only one recorded exclusively on A. atratus (Borowiec et al., 2010; Delvare et al., 2008). Chilocorus nigritus (Fabricius) (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) has also been recorded as a natural enemy of A. atratus (Beaudoin-Ollivier et al., 2004).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)

Adult A. atratus are winged and capable of flight, but are small, delicate and relatively poor fliers.

Accidental Introduction

Palm trees are present worldwide, and because of their great appeal as ornamentals, their trade has increased considerably in recent years. It is most likely that long distance (international) dispersal of A. atratus has resulted from the spread of infested palms in trade. A. atratus has been intercepted at US ports of entry on palms originating from the Caribbean (Evans, 2008), and in the UK on palms and palm foliage imported from the Caribbean and Central America, respectively (Malumphy and Tresedar, 2011).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Crop production Yes
Horticulture Yes
Landscape improvement Yes
Ornamental purposes Yes

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Plants or parts of plantsEggs or larvae can be carried on foliage Yes

Plant Trade

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Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transportPest stagesBorne internallyBorne externallyVisibility of pest or symptoms
Leaves eggs; larvae Yes Pest or symptoms usually invisible

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Cultural/amenity Negative
Economic/livelihood Negative
Environment (generally) Negative

Impact

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A. atratus feeds on palms that are of economic, amenity and environmental importance.

Economic Impact

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Both the larval stages and adults of A. atratus damage plants directly by feeding on the foliage. The removal of sap reduces plant vigour, causes chlorosis and premature leaf drop and reduces yields. Large infestations of whitefly, in combination with other stress factors such as lack of water, may result in the death of palms. Indirect damage is caused by the excreted honeydew that serves as a medium for the growth of sooty moulds, which hinder photosynthesis and gas exchange, and reduce yields. The highly conspicuous flocculent white wax that covers dense groups of pupae and the sooty moulds reduce the aesthetic appearance and market value of ornamentals and crops. Plants growing below infested palms also become covered in sticky honeydew, sooty mould and wax. The honeydew attracts ants, flies and other insects which can be a nuisance.                                                                                  

A. atratus is most economically significant as a pest of coconut; for example, in Grand Comoro 90% of coconut palms were severely infested by the whiteflies A. atratus and Paraleyrodes bondari Peracchi, and A. atratus accounted for 90% of the whiteflies found (Streito et al., 2004). The sooty mould that develops on the honeydew excreted by whiteflies significantly affects coconut palm growth and yields. Heavy whitefly infestations have even resulted in death of the palms. The economic impact is substantial, with annual lost earnings for producers estimated at 3-5 million euros. Crops growing under infested coconut, such as vanilla, banana, physic nut and guava, are also damaged (Beaudoin-Ollivier et al., 2004).

A. atratus attacks many ornamental palms commonly planted in tourist areas, such as the Canary Islands and Seychelles, and therefore has the potential to impact tourism (Borowiec et al., 2010).

Environmental Impact

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A. atratus feeds on 17 palm species that are listed in the IUCN red list (Borowiec et al., 2010), and therefore has the potential to be detrimental to biodiversity, particularly in more vulnerable island ecosystems.

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Acanthophoenix rubraCR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered)RéunionHerbivory/grazing/browsingBorowiec et al., 2010
Beccariophoenix madagascariensisCR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered)RéunionHerbivory/grazing/browsingBorowiec et al., 2010
Cyphophoenix nucele (Lifou palm)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered)Herbivory/grazing/browsingBorowiec et al., 2010
Deckenia nobilisEN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered)SeychellesHerbivory/grazing/browsingBorowiec et al., 2010
Dypsis decaryiVU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable) VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable)Réunion; SeychellesHerbivory/grazing/browsingBorowiec et al., 2010
Dypsis madagascariensisNT (IUCN red list: Near threatened) NT (IUCN red list: Near threatened)Réunion; SeychellesHerbivory/grazing/browsingBorowiec et al., 2010
Hyophorbe indicaEN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered)RéunionHerbivory/grazing/browsingBorowiec et al., 2010
Hyophorbe lagenicaulisCR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered)RéunionHerbivory/grazing/browsingBorowiec et al., 2010
Hyophorbe verschaffeltii (spindle palm)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered)RéunionHerbivory/grazing/browsingBorowiec et al., 2010
Kentiopsis oliviformisEN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered)Herbivory/grazing/browsingBorowiec et al., 2010
Latania lontaroidesEN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered)RéunionHerbivory/grazing/browsingBorowiec et al., 2010
Nephrosperma vanhoutteanaNT (IUCN red list: Near threatened) NT (IUCN red list: Near threatened)Réunion; SeychellesHerbivory/grazing/browsingBorowiec et al., 2010
Phoenicophorium borsigianumNT (IUCN red list: Near threatened) NT (IUCN red list: Near threatened)Réunion; SeychellesHerbivory/grazing/browsingBorowiec et al., 2010
Ravenea rivularisVU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable) VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable)Herbivory/grazing/browsingBorowiec et al., 2010
Veitchia merrillii (christmas palm)NT (IUCN red list: Near threatened) NT (IUCN red list: Near threatened)Réunion; SeychellesHerbivory/grazing/browsingBorowiec et al., 2010
Verschaffeltia splendidaLC (IUCN red list: Least concern) LC (IUCN red list: Least concern)Réunion; SeychellesHerbivory/grazing/browsingBorowiec et al., 2010
Wodyetia bifurcata (foxtail palm)No DetailsRéunionHerbivory/grazing/browsingBorowiec et al., 2010

Social Impact

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There appears to be no specific data published on the social impact of A. atratus; however, the whitefly is an economic pest of coconut and has reduced earnings in the Comoros Islands (Streito et al., 2004), where coconut is traditionally used in many areas of life (such as food, agroforestry and the construction of traditional houses). It has the potential to cause a significant social impact, as coconut is a staple food source for many people in the tropics and subtropics, and plays a role in culture and religion in some countries in Africa (e.g. Comoros Islands) and Asia.  

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Gregarious
  • Reproduces asexually
Impact outcomes
  • Host damage
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Negatively impacts forestry
  • Negatively impacts livelihoods
  • Negatively impacts tourism
  • Reduced amenity values
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of endangered species
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
  • Negatively impacts animal/plant collections
  • Damages animal/plant products
  • 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 as a commodity contaminant
  • Difficult to identify/detect in the field
  • Difficult/costly to control

Diagnosis

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Aleurotrachelus is one of the largest genera of whiteflies and currently contains 74 species (Martin and Mound, 2007). There are no comprehensive keys available for the identification of Aleurotrachelus species and the genus may be polyphyletic (Martin, 2005). Whitefly taxonomy is based on the morphology of the fourth-larval instar, known as the pupa or puparium. A. atratus should be identified by an experienced entomologist by comparing slide-mounted pupae with verified voucher specimens. Photographs of diagnostic morphological characters of a slide-mounted A. atratus pupa are provided by Streito et al. (2004) and Walker (2008).

Detection and Inspection

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Eggs and larvae of A. atratus occur on the underside of palm fronds, and when abundant they are highly conspicuous due to the flocculent white wax which covers the pupae. Adult whitefly may be found on both upper and lower surfaces of palm fronds. The upper surfaces of infested fronds often exhibit chlorosis or necrosis. Infested palms may also exhibit wilting and a covering of sticky honeydew and associated sooty moulds.

However, field identification of A. atratus is unreliable as there are similar species with black pupae in the genus Aleurotrachelus and other genera such as Aleurotulus, Aleurolobus and Tetraleurodes.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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Field identification of A. atratus is unreliable as there are similar species with black pupae in the genus Aleurotrachelus, as well as in other genera. Colonies of A. atratus are covered in flocculent white wax and may be confused with other whitefly species that are also common on palms.

The symptoms of A. atratus on palms (chlorosis and/or necrosis) can also be caused by scale insects.

Adult A. atratus resemble those of the cosmopolitan glasshouse whitefly (Trialeurodes vaporariorum), but the body of T. vaporariorum is cream to pale yellow, compared with the dark yellow body of A. atratus.

Prevention and Control

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Cultural Control and Sanitary Measures

Cultural control and sanitary measures targeted at A. atratus in a glasshouse at a botanical garden in the UK have included pruning out the worst-infested leaves and, sometimes, the removal of whole plants. On some of the important specimen plants the leaves were washed by hand and wiped with alcohol (Malumphy and Tresedar, 2011).

Biological Control

Biological control measures targeted at A. atratus in a glasshouse at a botanical garden in the UK have included introductions of Amblyseius swirskii Athias-Henriot (Mesostigmata: Phytoseiidae), Chilocorus nigritus Fabricius (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) and Eretmocerus eremicus Rose and Zolnerowich (Hymenoptera: Aphelinidae) to areas of high whitefly infestation. No evidence, however, has been observed of any of these biological control agents being effective against A. atratus.

The parasitoid Eretmocerus cocois was found to effectively parasitize populations of A. atratus in Guadeloupe (Neotropics) and in the Indian Ocean islands of Réunion and Mayotte (Delvare et al., 2008), and was introduced to Ngazidja (Comoros Islands) for the biological control of the whitefly by CIRAD and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment Research Institute (INRAPE) in the Comoros within the Crop Protection Network for the Indian Ocean (PRPV). The parasitoid proved an effective biocontrol agent of A. atratus (Cave, 2008), and may be introduced to the Seychelles (Hobson, 2012).

Chemical Control

Chemical treatments targeted at A. atratus in a glasshouse at a botanical garden in the UK have included applications of maltodextrin and pyrethrin in the spring and summer, and applications of acetamiprid, deltamethrin, pymetrozine, pyrethrin, spiromesifen and thiacloprid in the winter. These treatments were only partially successful; one of the main difficulties was achieving an even application of the pesticides, which was made difficult by the height of the plants and the shape of the palm leaves (Malumphy and Tresedar, 2011).

References

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Beaudoin-Ollivier L; Streito JC; Ollivier J; Delvare G; Julia JF; Ryckewaert P; Ali M, 2004. Aleurotrachelus atratus Hempel (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) and its emergence as a pest of coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) in the Comoros Islands. In: 2nd European Whitefly Symposium. 17-18.

Borowiec N; Quilici S; Martin J; Issimaila MA; Chadhouliati AC; Youssoufa MA; Beaudoin-Ollivier L; Delvare G; Reynaud B, 2010. Increasing distribution and damage to palms by the Neotropical whitefly, Aleurotrachelus atratus (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae). Journal of Applied Entomology, 134(6):498-510. http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/loi/jen

Cave RD, 2008. Biocontrol of Whitefly on Coconut Palms in the Comoros. Biocontrol News and Information, 29(1):1-18.

Delvare G; Genson G; Borowiec N; Etienne J; Abdoul Karime A; Beaudoin-Ollivier L, 2008. Description of Eretmocerus cocois sp. no. (Hymenoptera: Chalcidoidea), a parasitoid of Aleurotrachelus atratus (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the coconut palm. Zootaxa, 1723:47-62.

Evans GA, 2008. The whiteflies of the World. USDA/Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), 703 pp.

Evans GA; Polaszek A, 1997. Additions to the Encarsia parasitoids (Hymenoptera: Aphelinidae) of the Bemisia tabaci-complex (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae). Bulletin of Entomological Research, 87(6):563-571; 15 ref.

Evans GA; Polaszek A, 1998. The Encarsia cubensis species-group (Hymenoptera: Aphelinidae). Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington, 100(2):222-233.

Hempel A, 1922. New or little known Rhynchota of the family Aleurodidae. (Hemipteros novos ou pouco conhecidos da familia Aleyrodidae.) Revista del Museo de Paulista, 13:1121-1191 pp.

Hernandez-Suarez E; Carnero A; Aguiar A; Prinsloo G; LaSalle J; Polaszek A, 2003. Parasitoids of whiteflies (Hymenoptera: Aphelinidae, Eulophidae, Platygastridae; Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) from the Macaronesian archipelagos of the Canary Islands, Madeira and the Azores. Systematics and Biodiversity, 1(1):55-108.

Hernández-Suárez E; Martin JH; Gill RJ; Bedford ID; Malumphy CP; Reyes Betancort JA; Carnero A, 2012. The aleyrodidae (Hemiptera: Sternorrhyncha) of the Canary Islands with special reference to Aleyrodes, Siphoninus, and the challenges of puparial morphology in Bemisia. Zootaxa, 3212:1-76. http://www.mapress.com/zootaxa/2012/f/zt03212p076.pdf

Hobson A, 2012. Seychelles: Setting up biological control against coconut whitefly. Indian Ocean Agriculture and Biodiversity. http://www.agriculture-biodiversite-oi.org/en/Researchers-students/What-s-new/Lab-news/Seychelles-Setting-up-biological-control-against-coconut-whitefly

Howard FW; Moore D; Giblin-Davis RM; Abad RG, 2001. Insects on palms. Wallingford, Oxfordshire, UK: CABI Publishing, 400 pp.

Lepesme P, 1947. The insects of Palms. Paris, France: Paul Lechevalier.

Malumphy C; Treseder K, 2011. Palm-infesting whitefly Aleurotrachelus atratus (Hempel) (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) established in England at a botanical garden. Entomologist's Monthly Magazine, 147(1760-62):23-31. http://www.pemberleybooks.com

Martin JH, 2005. Whiteflies of Belize (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) Part 2 - a review of the subfamily Aleyrodinae Westwood. Zootaxa, 1098:1-116.

Martin JH; Mound LA, 2007. An annotated check list of the world's whiteflies (Insecta: Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae). Zootaxa, 1492:1-84.

Mound LA; Halsey SH, 1978. Whitefly of the world. A systematic catalogue of the Aleyrodidae (Homoptera) with host plant and natural enemy data. Chichester, UK: John Wiley and Sons.

Muniappan R; Watson GW; Vaughan L; Gilbertson R; Noussourou M, 2012. New records of mealybugs, scale insects, and whiteflies (Hemiptera: Sternorrhyncha) from Mali and Senegal. Journal of Agricultural and Urban Entomology, 28(1):1-7. http://scentsoc.org/Volumes/JAUE/28/28001.pdf

Noyes JS, 2012. Universal Chalcidoidea Database. London, UK: Natural History Museum. http://www.nhm.ac.uk/chalcidoids

Streito J; Ollivier J; Beaudoin-Ollivier L, 2004. Two new pests of Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) for the fauna of the Comoros: Aleurotrachelus atratus Hempel, 1922 and Paraleyrodes bondari Peracchi, 1971 (Hemiptera, Aleyrodidae). (Deux ravageurs nouveaux du Cocotier (Cocos nucifera L.) pour la faune des Comores: Aleurotrachelus atratus Hempel, 1922, et Paraleyrodes bondari Peracchi, 1971 (Hemiptera, Aleyrodidae).) Bulletin of the Entomological Society of France, 109(1):67-72.

Walker K, 2008. Palm-infesting whitefly (Aleurotrachelus atratus). Palm-infesting whitefly. http://www.padil.gov.au

Wong L; Boesch RA; Okada CL; Reimer NJ, 2006. Annual Report. Hawaii, USA: Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

Youssoufa MA; Issimaila MA; Chadhouliati AC; Borowiec N; Quilici S; Ollivier L; Delvare G; Reynaud B, 2006. Biological control program against whiteflies (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) in coconut pest Comoros. (Programme de lutte biologique contre les aleurodes (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) nuisibles au cocotier aux Comores. 6e`me Conference Internationale Francophone d'Entomologie, Rabat, Maroc.) In: 6th International Francophone Conference of Entomology, Rabat, Morocco. July 02-06, 2006

Contributors

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07/08/13 Original text by:

Chris Malumphy, Central Science Laboratories, UK

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