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New research maps potential global spread of devastating papaya mealybug pest


CABI scientists have mapped the potential global spread of the devastating papaya mealybug (Paracoccus marginatus), highlighting new areas in Africa, Asia and the Americas into which this pest could potentially invade.

The papaya mealybug, which is native to Mexico and Central America, can have severe impacts upon livelihoods and food security. In Ghana, for example, infestations led to a 65% yield loss which reduced export earnings and resulted in the loss of 1,700 jobs.

Using location data received through collaborations with Kerala Agricultural University, India; the National Rice Research Institute, India; the Bangladesh Agricultural University; University of Queensland, Australia; the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA); Fujan Agriculture and Forestry University in China and CSIRO, researchers were able to model the potential distribution of this pest, taking into account environmental conditions, and the distribution of suitable host crops and irrigation patterns.

The researchers, led by CABI's Dr. Elizabeth Finch, believe the polyphagous insect pest, which affects over 200 plants including economically important crops such as papaya, cassava and avocado, could spread to areas such as the south of the Democratic Republic of Congo, northern Cameroon, Zambia, Madagascar and western Ethiopia which are environmentally suitable and have suitable crop hosts.

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An excerpt from Samaporn Saengyot. 2011. Biological control of papaya mealybug, Paracoccus marginatus (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae), in Thailand. Ph.D. thesis, Kasetsart University, Bangkok. 

"Papaya mealybug (Paracoccus marginatus) was first detected in Thailand in 2008. Attempt to introduce its encyrtid natural enemies from Puerto Rico in 2009 failed due to technical complication at its source. Thirteen native generalist natural enemies were found in the country. They were Aenasius sp., Anagyrus sp. and an unidentified encyrtid as the parasitoids; five coccinellids consisting of Cryptogonus orbiculus, Sasajiscymnus quinquepunctatus, Scymnus quadrillum, Scymnus (Pullus) coccivora and Stethorus sp.; the apefly, Spalgis epius, two lacewings, Chrysoperla sp. (carnea-group) and Mallada basalis, and an unidentified syrphid as predators."

Papaya mealybug is no longer a problem and is now rarely seen or detected anymore in Thailand.