EPPO Global Database

EPPO Reporting Service no. 11 - 2010 Num. article: 2010/211

Incursion of Keiferia lycopersicella in Liguria (Italy): addition to the EPPO Alert List

In November 2008, the presence of Keiferia lycopersicella (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae) was detected on a tomato crop (Lycopersicon esculentum cvs. ‘Seni’ and ‘Cuor di Bue’) located in the municipality of Arenzano (province of Genoa) in Liguria region, Italy. The affected tomato crop (approximately 0.5 ha) was heavily infested by K. lycopersicella as well as by Tuta absoluta, thus the damage observed could not be attributed to one or the other species. However, observations made on collected plant material showed that 80-85% of the larval population was K. lycopersicella. Following this first record, the Regional Plant Protection Organization of Liguria carried out specific investigations in the area concerned but did not detect the pest. For the moment, it is assumed that K. lycopersicella did not establish in Italy. Considering that K. lycopersicella is known to be a serious pest of tomato crops in the Americas, the EPPO Panel on Phytosanitary Measures recommended its addition to the EPPO Alert List.

Keiferia lycopersicella (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae - tomato pinworm)
Why: Keiferia lycopersicella came to EPPO’s attention because it was detected in 2008 damaging a tomato crop in Italy (1 production site in Liguria). K. lycopersicella originates from the Americas (probably Central America) where it is considered as a significant pest of tomato. The EPPO Panel on Phytosanitary Measures considered that this pest may represent a threat to the EPPO region, and suggested its addition to the EPPO Alert List.

Where: K. lycopersicella is considered to be a tropical and sub-tropical species. In North America, it occurs outdoors in Mexico and the Southern US states. In cooler areas, it is found in glasshouses (in most cases introduced with infested transplants) from which it can also escape to nearby fields during summer.
EPPO region: an incursion was detected in Italy (Liguria region) in 2008 in one tomato crop, but since then the pest has not been found again. It is considered that the pest did not establish.
North America: Canada (Ontario), Mexico, USA (Arkansas, Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia).
Central America and the Caribbean: Bermuda, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago (Trinidad).
South America: Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela.

On which plants: The main host of K. lycopersicella is tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum) but other Solanaceae can be attacked, such as eggplant (Solanum melongena) or potato (S. tuberosum). Weed species like S. carolinense, S. xanthii, S. umbelliferum and S. bahamense are recorded as hosts. Capsicum spp., Nicotiana tabacum and the weed, S. nigrum, are considered as unsuitable host plants.

Damage: Damage is caused by larvae which feed on flowers, leaves and fruit of tomato plants. Larvae mine the leaves, feeding only on the inner part and leaving the upper and lower surfaces inctact. Later, they can form protective leaf folds under which which they continue to feed. This type of feeding causes large blotches adjacent to each leaf fold. Heavy infestations can lead to the destruction of many leaves (burnt appearance of the plant) which considerably reduces tomato yield. The most important damage occurs when larvae enter tomato fruit. They generally bore under the calyx, but entry holes are difficult to detect (small ‘pin holes’). After a while, brown granular frass can be seen at the edge of the calyx. Larvae create narrow blackened tunnels into the fruit which can then be invaded by secondary pathogens.
Adults are small, brownish or grayish moths (wingspan of 9-12 mm). They are nocturnal and generally hide during the day. L. lycopersicella can be confused with other species having the same habits, in particular with Tuta absoluta and Phthorimaea operculella. Eggs are laid on leaves, singly or in small clusters. There are 4 larval stages (mature larvae reach 5.8-7.9 mm long) and pupation usually takes place in the soil (a loosely woven pupal cell intermingled with soil particles is formed near the soil surface). The duration of the life cycle depends on the climatic conditions, for example in warm areas of the USA a generation can be completed within 26 to 34 days during summer. There are several overlapping generations per year (e.g. 7 to 8 overlapping generations in Florida).
Pictures of the pest can be viewed on the Internet:

Transmission: Adults can fly but data is lacking on the natural spread potential of K. lycopersicella. In North America, it has been observed that many tomato crop infestations resulted from shipments of infested containers used when harvesting, crates, fruits or seedlings, as well as from pest populations which had survived on plant debris left in the fields after harvest or in compost heaps.

Pathway: Plants for planting, fruits from countries where K. lycopersicella occurs; packing material that has transported infested tomatoes.

Possible risks: Tomatoes are widely grown across the EPPO region (indoors and outdoors) and are of high economic value. K. lycopersicella is considered as a significant pest of tomatoes in countries where it occurs. High infestation levels can lead to severe damage, and economic losses have been reported in the absence of appropriate control measures both in outdoor and glasshouse tomato crops. IPM strategies have been developed against K. lycopersicella (i.e. use of locally produced and healthy tomato transplants, monitoring with pheromone traps, mating disruption, timely applications of insecticides, use of biocontrol agents such as Apenteles spp. or Trichogramma pretiosum). The development of resistance to insecticides has been reported for K. lycopersicella. Because of its hidden mode of life, the pest is difficult to detect by visual inspection of fruits, and entry holes are very small. The incursion of K. lycopersicella in Italy clearly demonstrates that the pest has been able to enter the EPPO region (even if the circumstances of this introduction remain unknown). Although, further studies are needed, it seems that K. lycopersicella has the potential to establish in the EPPO region (outdoors in the southern part and indoors across the entire region). It can be noted that Shutova (1984) identified K. lycopersicella as a potential threat to tomato-growing areas of Central and Eastern Europe; and this pest is currently included in the quarantine list of Moldova. 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 importance of avoiding the introduction of K. lycopersicella into the EPPO region.

EPPO RS 2010/211
Panel review date: -
Entry date 2010-11


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