EPPO Global Database

EPPO Reporting Service no. 04 - 2004 Num. article: 2004/061

First report of Platypus mutatus in Italy: addition to the EPPO Alert List

A xylophagous insect Platypus mutatus (syn. P. sulcatus, Coleoptera: Platypodidae) has recently been introduced into Italy from South America. Its presence was first noticed in 2000 near Caserta (Campania) where major damage was seen in a stand of Populus canadensis. It is suspected that this species was introduced via wood imports. Unlike other ‘ambrosia beetles’ which live on recently cut or dying wood, P. mutatus attacks standing and vigorous trees. Considering that P. mutatus could present a risk to woody trees and wood production in Europe, it was decided to add it on the EPPO Alert List.

Platypus mutatus (Coleoptera: Platypodidae)
Why: Platypus mutatus (syn. P. sulcatus) has recently been introduced into Italy (personal communication with M. Finelli, NPPO of Italy) where it caused damage to poplar plantations. It is reported as a damaging pest of woody trees in its area of origin (South America).

EPPO region: Italy (first observed near Caserta (Campania) in 2000, studies are being done to delimit the extent of infestation and possibly envisage eradication).
South America: Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay.

On which plants: P. mutatus can attack a very wide range of woody trees. Among its various host plants, the following are mentioned: Acer, Citrus, Eucalyptus, Fraxinus, Laurus nobilis, Magnolia grandiflora, Malus domestica, Platanus, Populus, Prunus persica, Persea americana, Pyrus communis, Quercus, Robinia pseudacacia, Salix, Tilia, Ulmus.

Damage: P. mutatus bores 3 mm-wide holes in the trunk, approximately 4 m above ground level. It creates long, sinuous galleries lined with black mycelium of symbiotic fungi associated with this species (first and second instar larvae are mycetophagous). In Argentina, the Ascomycete anamorph Raffaellea santoroi was identified in Laurus nobilis, Quercus robur and Eucalyptus camaldulensis tunnels and sawdust produced by P. mutatus. In Argentina and similarly in Italy, P. mutatus attacks standing and vigorous trees unlike other ambrosia beetles which live on recently cut wood or dying trees. It is considered in Argentina as a primary pest causing serious problem in commercial plantations of Populus (in particular, P. deltoides). In plantations, the presence of P. mutatus led to lower yield in wood volume per unit area due to breakage of trees (weakened by galleries) and reduced vigour. The quality of wood is also diminished by the presence of galleries and dark stained tunnels caused by the decay of fungal mycelium.

Dissemination: More data is needed on the biology of the pest, but over short distances adult movements can ensure species dispersal. Over long distances, trade of woody plants for planting and wood can ensure dissemination.

Pathway: Plants for planting of woody hosts, wood and wood products from countries where P. mutatus occurs.

Possible risks: P. mutatus could present a risk to many woody species which are widely grown in Europe: in particular poplar plantations but also other tree species used for wood and fruit production as well as for ornamental purposes. As most of the life cycle is accomplished within wood tissues, this species is difficult to detect and control (although some chemicals are apparently available against it). More data is needed on the biology of the pest, its economic impact and on the present situation in Italy.

EPPO RS 2004/061
Panel review date        -        Entry date 2004-04


Alfaro, R.I. (2003) The ‘grand forest borer’ Platypus mutatus (=sulcatus): an important pest of poplar culture in Argentina. A plan of action. SAGPyA Forestal, no. 28, 11-18 (abst.).
Allegro, G. Beffa, G.D. (2001) A new entomological problem for poplar culture in Italy: Platypus mutatus Chapuis (Coleoptera: Platypodidae). Sherwood Foreste ed Alberi Oggi, 7(4), 31-34 (abst.).
Costilla, M.A.; Venditti, M.E. (1992) Importance and control of Platypus sulcatus (Coleoptera: Platypodidae), a pest of citrus and avocado. Revista Industrial y Agricola de Tucuman, 69(1/2), 163-166 (abst.).
Giménez, R.A.; Etiennot, A.E. (2003) Host range of Platypus mutatus (Chapuis, 1865) (Coleoptera : Platypopidae). Entomotropica, 18(2), 89-94.
de Santana, D.L.; dos Santos, A.F. (2001) Occurrence of Platypus sulcatus on black wattle (Acacia mearnsii). Boletim de Pesquisa Florestal, no. 42, 137-40 (abst.).
Tremblay, E. ; Espinosa, B. ; Mancini, D. Caprio, G. (2000) [ A Coleoptera from South America threatens poplars]. Informatore Agrario, 56(48), 89-90 (abst.).
Personnal communication with M. F. Finelli, NPPO of IT (2004-03).
Istituto di Sperimentazione per la Pioppicoltura, Casale Monferrato, Italy
Research on Platypus mutatus Chapuis, a South American parasite recently introduced in Italy (Coleoptera, Platypodidae). http://www.populus.it/ (consult activities and downloads)