Psacothea hilaris detected in the United Kingdom: addition to the EPPO Alert List
In the United Kingdom, one live adult beetle of Psacothea hilaris (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae – yellow-spotted longhorn beetle) was detected in July 2008 by a member of the public in a garden in Derbyshire (East Midlands, England). P. hilaris is a significant pest of Ficus carica (fig) and Morus spp. (mulberries) in the Far East. The origin of its introduction into the UK is unknown but the garden where the beetle was found and its vicinity will be subject to further inspections, especially on Ficus or Morus. It is noted that these species are widely sold as ornamentals in the UK. A press release will also be circulated locally. Because P. hilaris has been intercepted before in the UK (in 1997) and reported occasionally from Italy (see EPPO RS 2005/182 and 2008/052), the NPPO of the UK suggested that it could be added to the EPPO Alert List. Although it is unlikely to survive outdoors in the UK, it could present a risk to the Mediterranean region.
Psacothea hilaris (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae – yellow-spotted longhorn beetle)
Why: Psacothea hilaris has been occasionally found in Italy (in 2005 and 2008) and in the United Kingdom (in 2008). This wood borer of Asian origin has also been intercepted in trade in Europe (UK in 1997) and in North America (Canada in 1997, trapped in wood warehouses). As it is a serious pest of Ficus and Morus, the NPPO of the UK suggested that it could be added to the EPPO Alert List, in particular to warn NPPOs of Mediterranean countries.
Asia: China, Japan (Honshu, Shikoku, Ryukyu Islands), Taiwan. P. hilaris is reported to occur in southern China but the EPPO Secretariat could not find more detailed information. The situation in the Republic of Korea needs clarification. In a short Internet publication, it is stated that P. hilaris is a rare insect species which survives only on Ulleung-do Island. Studies are being done to rear the insect and release it again in its natural environment on the Island.
EPPO region: incursions of live beetles were reported in Italy (Lombardia) and the United Kingdom (East Midlands) in 2008. These have apparently not led to the establishment of the pest. In 2005, dead beetles had already been found in Lombardia near a wood warehouse (the pest had also been intercepted once in the UK in 1997. P. hilaris has also been intercepted several times in North America and Canada in warehouses, on wood and wooden spools imported from Asia (EPPO RS 98/202).
On which plants: P. hilaris attacks plant belonging to the Moraceae family, in particular Ficus (including fig trees, F. carica) and Morus spp. (mulberries).
Damage: Larvae bore tunnels inside tree trunks and adults feed on the leaves. In Japan, P. hilaris is considered as a serious pest of mulberry trees and fig orchards. In sericulture, it is causing problems because larvae bore tunnels in the trunks of mulberry trees which weaken the trees, while adults feed on the leaves which are the food source of Bombyx mori. Finally, it has been observed that P. hilaris could transport a newly described species of nematode, Bursaphelenchus conicaudatus, which was found associated with Ficus carica. This nematode is closely related to B. xylophilus, but its pathogenicity and economic importance remain unknown.
No detailed description of the insect could be found, but adults are dark brown with conspicuous yellows spots on the elytra. Adult body length (excluding antennae) varies from 13 to 30 mm for males and from 15 to 31 mm for females. P. hilaris presents a large morphological variation across it geographic range (e.g. in the spot patterns) and 10 to 13 subspecies have been described. As it is a beautiful insect, many pictures can be found on the Internet:
P. hilaris can complete its life cycle in 1 or 2 years and can have 2 generations per year depending on the time of egg-laying. Larval development varies with temperature and day-length. In Japan, the species usually overwinters as mature larvae and most adults emerge in mid-June the following year.
Dissemination: No data is available on the potential of P. hilaris for natural spread. Over long distances, it can be moved with plants and wood of Ficus and Morus. There is no data indicating that it might be present in bonsai trees (as Anoplophora chinensis is for example).
Pathway: Plants for planting and wood of Ficus and Morus, bonsais?
Possible risks: Although sericulture has almost disappeared in Europe, Morus trees are still grown for ornamental purposes, particularly in the southern part of the EPPO region. The production of figs (Ficus sericea) is important around the Mediterranean Basin, and many ornamental Ficus species are grown across Europe (under glass in the north but also outdoors in the south). The control of P. hilaris is difficult because larvae bore into tree limbs so deeply that both chemical and mechanical control of the insect are difficult. Biological control with entomogenous fungi (i.e. Beauveria brongniartii) is being studied in Japan. Because larvae of P. hilaris spend most of their life cycle inside the trees, they are likely to be moved unnoticed in trade. Although data is lacking on the biology of the pest and in particular on its potential of establishment in the EPPO region, it seems that it could present a risk to Morus and Ficus trees growing in the Mediterranean part of the EPPO region.
EPPO RS 2008/201
Panel review date: -
Entry date 2008-10
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INTERNET (last accessed 2008-09)
Regione lombardia (IT) website. Tantardini A, Calvi M, Cavagna B (2006) Psacothea hilaris (Pascoe). Prima segnalazione in Italia ed Europa. http://www.cerambycoidea.com/titles/tantardinialii2006.pdf