Fortuitous biological control of the invasive mealybug Phenacoccus peruvianus in Southern Europe
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Phenacoccus peruvianus Granara de Willink (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) is a Neotropical invasive mealybug that has rapidly spread throughout Mediterranean Basin. It has established itself as the principal pest of several ornamental plants, causing considerable problems in nurseries and urban landscapes. The aim of this study was to determine the natural enemy complex of this pest and report the feasibility of its biological control. Six urban green spaces were surveyed in eastern Spain from 2008 to 2010. The most abundant natural enemies of P. peruvianus were found to be the primary parasitoids Acerophagus n. sp. near coccois and Leptomastix epona Walker (Hymenoptera: Encyrtidae). Phenacoccus peruvianus populations were lower during the second and third year of the survey, coinciding with an increase of the parasitoid Acerophagus sp., which displaced the native L. epona. Differential female offspring and resource preemption are discussed as the main reasons for this displacement.