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Phytoparasitica September 2010, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 401-409

Survey of mealybug (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) vectors of Ampelovirus and Vitivirus in vineyards of northwestern Italy
Sabrina Bertin, Vincenzo Cavalieri, Carlo Graziano, Domenico Bosco

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Mealybugs (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) are sap-sucking insects which infest a broad range of crops worldwide. They represent an important threat to viticulture as they are vectors of viruses associated with leafroll and rugose wood complex diseases. In this study, we surveyed the presence of mealybugs and their associated viruses in vineyards of the Piemonte and Liguria regions, northwestern Italy. In order to determine the collected specimens correctly, we added a species-specific marker for Heliococcus bohemicus to an existing molecular identification key. The only species collected in Piemonte was H. bohemicus, whereas in Liguria, H. bohemicus, Planococcus ficus and Pseudococcus longispinus were found; Ps. longispinus has never before been reported in Italian vineyards. Several specimens of all three species were infected by the ampeloviruses GLRaV-1 and GLRaV-3 and the vitivirus GVA. Both nymphs and adult females tested positive for the viruses and mixed infections were commonly found within the same insect. Population levels and virus incidence were higher in Liguria than in Piemonte, suggesting a greater risk of disease spread. We conclude that the mild, Mediterranean climate of Liguria favors the development of a diverse mealybug fauna while only H. bohemicus, known to be tolerant to the severe continental winter temperatures, colonize grapevines in colder viticultural areas.

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