EPPO Global Database

EPPO Reporting Service no. 03 - 2012 Num. article: 2012/052

Neoleucinodes elegantalis, a borer of solanaceous fruit: addition to the EPPO Alert List

Neoleucinodes elegantalis (Lepidoptera: Crambidae) is a major pest of tomatoes and other solanaceous fruit crops (e.g. aubergine and capsicum) in several countries of South America. The EPPO Panel on Phytosanitary Measures considered that N. elegantalis could represent a threat to the EPPO region, and suggested its addition to the EPPO Alert List.

Neoleucinodes elegantalis (Lepidoptera: Crambidae)
Why: Neoleucinodes elegantalis is a major pest of tomatoes and other solanaceous fruit crops (e.g. aubergine and capsicum) which occurs in South and Central America. N. elegantalis is absent from the EPPO region but it has been intercepted several times by the Netherlands (1 interception in 2009 and 3 in 2012) during import inspections of aubergine (S. melongena) from Suriname and control of passenger baggage at Schiphol airport. Considering the importance of tomato and other solanaceous fruit crops in the EPPO region, and the severe impacts resulting from the recent introduction of another fruit borer, Tuta absoluta, the EPPO Panel on Phytosanitary Measures considered that N. elegantalis could represent a threat to the EPPO region, and suggested its addition to the EPPO Alert List.

EPPO region: absent.
North America: Mexico.
Central America and Caribbean: Costa Rica, Cuba, Honduras, Grenada, Guatemala, Jamaica, Panama, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago.
South America: Argentina, Brazil (Amapa, Ceara, Distrito Federal, Minas Gerais, Parana, Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro, Santa Catarina, Sao Paulo, Sergipe), Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela.

On which plants: N. elegantalis feed on fruit of solanaceous crops, and its major hosts of economic importance are Solanum lycopersicum (tomato), Solanum melongena (aubergine), Capsicum annuum and tropical solanaceous fruits [e.g. S. aethiopicum (=S. gilo, jilo or gilo), S. betaceum (tree tomato), S. quitoense (naranjilla, lulo), S. sessiliflorum (cocona)]. It also feeds on weed and wild Solanum species: S. acerifolium, S. atropurpureum, S. crinitum, S. torvum, S. hirtum, S. lycocarpum, S. pseudolulo, S. viarum, S. sisymbriifolium.

Damage: N. elegantalis is a fruit borer whose larvae feed on seeds and flesh of the fruit. Soon after hatching, larvae enter young fruits making a very small entrance hole (0.5 mm) which is difficult to detect. Before pupation, they leave the fruit, leaving large exit holes which facilitate secondary fungal or bacterial infections. The presence of a single larva inside a fruit is sufficient to render it unmarketable (and up to 18 larvae have been observed in a single fruit). Infestation also leads to premature fruit fall. In attacked crops, damage usually becomes more evident near harvest. On tomatoes, it has been observed that the viability of seeds from fruits attacked by N. elegantalis could be reduced by 30-100% when compared with that of seeds from undamaged fruits. N. elegantalis is considered as a major pest in several countries such as Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela. Crop losses ranging from 50 to 90% have been reported, in particular in tomato crops. However, more data is needed on its economic impact as there are countries where the pest is present without any published reports of severe damage.
Eggs (white, oval, 0.5 mm long - 0.3 mm wide) are laid singly or in small clusters on flowers (petioles or sepals), on the fruit calyx and on small fruits (preferably when they reach 12-20 mm in diameter, and in the middle part of the fruit). In cases of very high infestations, eggs may be laid on leaves. Each female lays approximately 160 eggs (its life span is of approximately 6 days). After hatching, the first larval instars bore into the fruit and start feeding. Mature larvae are white to pinkish with a brown head and can reach 15-20 mm long. They exit from the fruit just before pupation. Pupae are dark brown, 12-15 mm long. Pupation can take place on the plants (inside a leaf fold), in the soil or in plant debris at the base of the plant. Adults have a wingspan of approximately 15-33 mm (females being larger than males). Wings are white, slightly transparent, anterior wings show three irregular brown blotches and posterior wings have scattered black dots. Adults are usually active at night and hide during the day on their host plants (cultivated or wild). Peaks of populations are observed during rainy periods. In Venezuela, laboratory studies have showed that the life cycle of N. elegantalis could be completed in 34 days, at 27°C and 68% relative humidity. Other studies showed that at 20°C, it took 51 days to complete the life cycle and that no development could take place below 14.7° (no oviposition) or above 34.5°C. Several generations per year are observed in countries where N. elegantalis occurs.

Dissemination: Data is lacking on the potential for natural spread of N. elegantalis but adults can fly. Over long distances, trade of infested fruits, or soil could transport the pest. The possibility that some of the host plants of N. elegantalis could be moved as plants for planting with their fruits for ornamental purposes cannot be excluded (however, import of plants for planting of Solanaceae from third countries is prohibited by many EPPO countries).

Pathway: Fruits, plants for planting? of host plants of N. elegantalis, soil, from countries where it occurs.

Possible risks: The main host plants of N. elegantalis, tomato, aubergine and capsicum, are widely grown in the EPPO region and high losses have been reported from several countries where the pest occurs. Because the whole larval development takes place inside the fruit, detection and control is difficult. IPM strategies have been developed to control N. elegantalis and include: destruction of solanaceous weeds, elimination of plant debris after harvest, crop rotation, close monitoring to detect signs of infestation (larval activity in the fruit, pupae in the soil), use of pheromone traps, bagging of flowers/young fruits to avoid infestation. The use of biocontrol agents is being studied (e.g. release of parasitoids, such as Trichogramma minutum, T. pretiosum (Hymenoptera: Trichogrammatidae), Copidosoma sp. (Hymenoptera: Encyrtidae), Lixophaga sp. (Diptera: Tachinidae)). Research is also being carried out to identify resistance genes and develop resistant cultivars. Finally, the fact that recent outbreaks of a similar pest, Tuta absoluta, in the EPPO region have had major consequences on pest management programmes in tomato crops, further advocates for the necessity to prevent the introduction of N. elegantalis into the EPPO region.

EPPO RS 2012/052
Panel review date: -
Entry date 2012-03


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