The first invasive species whitefly reported from Kerala in 1995 has now spread across the country, and a study has now detailed the damage caused by the pest.
Patterns of occurrence
- Most of these species are native to the Caribbean islands or Central America [or both]. It is difficult to pinpoint how they entered our country. Most probably a nymph or baby insect may have come along with imported plants. Also nowadays with globalisation, it is also possible that tourists may have brought the insect along with plants. Out of curiosity, people randomly pluck and bring tiny plants which lead to the accidental introduction of invasive species. We need to create awareness among the travellers,
- The first reported invasive spiralling whitefly Aleurodicus dispersus is now distributed throughout India except Jammu & Kashmir.
- Similarly, the rugose spiralling whitefly which was reported in Pollachi, Tamil Nadu in 2016 has now spread throughout the country including the islands of Andaman Nicobar and Lakshadweep.
- The host range of all of the invasive whiteflies was increasing due to their polyphagous nature (ability to feed on various kinds of food) and prolific breeding.
- Aleurodicus dispersus and Aleurodicus rugioperculatus have been reported on over 320 and 40 plant species, respectively.
Invasive Species whiteflies
- Other invasive whiteflies were also found to expand their host range on valuable plants species, especially coconut, banana, mango, sapota, guava, cashew, oil palm, and ornamental plants such as bottle palm, false bird of paradise, butterfly palm and important medicinal plants.
- The whiteflies are difficult to control by using synthetic insecticides, and hence currently naturally occurring insect predators, parasitoids and entomopathogenic fungi (fungi that can kill insets) are being used.
- They are not just environmentally friendly but also economically feasible.
- Entomopathogenic fungi specific to whiteflies are isolated, purified, grown in the lab or mass-produced and applied into the whitefly infested field in combination with the release of lab-reared potential predators and parasitoids.
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