EPPO Global Database

EPPO Reporting Service no. 10 - 2008 Num. article: 2008/202

Obolodiplosis robiniae: a new invasive species in Europe

In the 17th century, Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust - Fabaceae) was introduced from North America into Europe for ornamental and reforestation purposes. It is now considered as an invasive species in most European countries. More recently, several phytophagous insect species associated with R. pseudoacacia have been involuntarily introduced into Europe, for example leafminers: Phyllonorycter robiniella and Parectopa robiniella (both Lepidoptera: Gracillariidae). In Europe, an unusual species causing leaf galls on R. pseudoacacia was reported in 2003, in the Veneto region (Italy). It was identified as Obolodiplosis robiniae (Diptera: Cecidomyiidae), a gall midge originating from North America. Observations made in the Veneto region suggested that O. robiniae has at least 2 generations per year. In spring, adult females lay eggs on leaf tips, and larval feeding causes rolling of leaflet margins. Relatively high infestations can cause leaf fall, but trees are normally able to produce new shoots.
Pictures of O. robiniae can be viewed on the Internet:

After its initial discovery in Veneto in 2003, O. robiniae rapidly spread across Italy and to other European countries. In 2004/2005, it was already present in several regions in the North of Italy: Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino-Alto Adige, Lombardia, Emilia Romagna and Piemonte; and in 2007 it was also found in central and southern regions (Calabria, Campania, Molise, and Sicilia). In 2004, O. robiniae was reported in Czech Republic (near Prague) and in Slovenia (close to the Italian border). In 2005, signs of infestations were first noticed in Belgium near Brussels and the identity of the insect was confirmed in 2007. In 2006, the presence of O. robiniae was reported from Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Serbia and Montenegro, and Slovakia. More recent surveys carried out in Slovakia showed that O. robiniae mainly occurs in the south. In 2007, the gall midge was reported from France, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland (see EPPO RS 2008/199) and Ukraine. In France, O. robiniae was first observed at Gradignan, near Bordeaux (Gironde), and it then spread to Dordogne and Haute-Garonne (near Toulouse). In the Netherlands, it was discovered in June 2007, at first in the south but it was rapidly found across the country. However, it must be noted that despite an invasive behaviour no serious damage has been reported so far in Europe, and that insect population levels remained low. Interestingly, in several countries (e.g. Italy, France, Slovakia, Switzerland) O. robiniae was found with an associated parasitoid Platygaster robiniae (Hymenoptera: Platygastridae). For example in France, high levels of gall midge populations were observed in 2007 in Dordogne and Gironde, but in 2008 because of the efficient control by P. robiniae, O. robiniae was almost no longer seen. It is suggested that this parasitoid was introduced together with O. robiniae from North America, but surveys need to be conducted in North America to confirm the origin of P. robinae.

Finally, it must be reported that shortly before being detected in Europe, O. robiniae was introduced into Asia. In July 2002, leaf galls were observed on R. pseudoacacia in Japan (Fukuoka Prefecture). Almost at the same time, similar galls were found in the suburbs of Seoul in the Republic of Korea. In 2005, the pest had spread to 9 Prefectures in Japan. In 2006, the presence of O. robiniae was reported from China. High levels of infestation were reported from several cities in the Provinces of Hebei (Qinhuangdao) and Liaoning (Anshan, Chaoyang, Huludao, Jinzhou). However, according to the available literature and similar to the situation in Europe, no severe damage has been observed on R. pseudoacacia in Asia.


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Personal communication with Dr Michel Laguerre, Institut Européen de Chimie et de Biologie, Pessac, France (2008-10).