Biology of Pink Hibiscus MealybugMaconellicoccushirsutus (Green) on Chinese Hibiscus Shrubs in Khuzestan Province

Document Type : Research Article


1 Department of Plant Protection, College of Agriculture, Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz, Ahvaz, Iran

2 Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz, Ahvaz, Iran

3 Shahid Chamran

4 Senior expert, Khuzestan Water & Power Authority


Introduction: The pink hibiscus mealybug, Maconellicoccushirsutus (Green) (Hem.:Pseudococcidae) is one of the serious economic pests of agricultural crops in tropical and subtropical regions.This pesthas spread through Asia, Africa, America and Australia, and infests more than 330 host plants which some of them have the important role in theeconomy. This sap-feeding insect secrets honeydew which provides suitablemedium for black sooty moldgrowth. It also releases a toxin during feeding, which results in severe stunting, decline, and deformation of twigs. It has recorded as a pest on different host plants in southern Iranian provinces since the 1990s.In Khuzestan province, it was first observed on Chinese hibiscus shrubs in urban landscapes of Ahvaz in February 2009. The evergreen hibiscus shrub is very common in the urban landscape of warmcities of Khuzestan province. The severity of mealybug damage to hibiscus shrubs causedto becut off in some regions. As there is no data on the biology of M. hirsutus in Iran,in the present study, the biologyof this pestwas investigatedat different temperatures in laboratory conditions as well as its population fluctuations on Chinese hibiscus shrubs in urban landscapes of Ahvaz.
Materials and methods: Biology of the pest species was evaluated at five laboratory constant temperatures 15, 20, 25, 30and 35±2°C (65±5% RH and a photoperiod of L: D 14:10 h) on Chinese hibiscus leaves in plastic boxes (8×6×2 cm). Number ofM. hirsutusgenerations was also studied in clip cages on hibiscus shrubs in Ahvaz urban landscapes within a year. Population fluctuations of the insect were also investigated on those shrubs in two different regions of Ahvaz for 16 months. For this purpose, random sampling was done on five shrubs in each region bi-weekly. Eight twigs, 5 cm in length, were cut from the upper and lower halves of each shrub quadrant and a number of all mealybug developmental stages per twig were counted and recorded.Analysis of duration of different developmental stages was done by one-way ANOVA. For data analysis means were compared using SPSS 20 at 1% significance level. Data were assessed for normality by Shapiro-Wilkinson test in SPSS, and Anderson-Darling test in Minitab15 at 1% significance level.
Results and Discussion: Total life span ofthe female ofmealybug from egg to death at 20, 25, 30 and 35±2°Cwere 91.18±1.15, 51.68±0.84, 38.18±0.68 and 36.93±0.64 days, respectively. This period for a male was 60.69±1.57, 33.67±0.48, 24.33±0.57and 21.37±0.62days, respectively.No eggs were hatchedat 15°C. The longest and shortest life span of both male and female mealybugs wereat 20 and 35°C, respectively. No female could lay eggs without male and die after amonth. Therefore,matingwas necessary for egg production.However, there are reports of parthenogenetic reproduction in this pest species. An average number of crawlers produced by each female at above mentioned temperatureswere 152.2±6.25, 268.8±7.82, 322.2±6.18 and 240.3±11.86, respectively. The pest produced seven generations on hibiscus shrubs according to clip cage results in Ahvaz the urban area.The average total pre-oviposition period from egg to adult in clip cages in urban area of Ahvaz were 38.67, 34.04, 35.40, 45.21, 39.59 and 67.75 days for 1-6 generations during a year, respectively. Study of the pest population fluctuations showed thatthis pest species overwintered as different developmental stages in crevices of shrub bark. The mealybugs which were hidden in crevices of shrub bark in winter started to occupy the new leaves and twigs in early April.Ants were walking in lines on twigs and around mealybugs in high numbers, indicating the importance of ants in transporting mealybugs from winter shelters to newly grown twigs and leaves in early spring.The moderate temperature in autumn helped the population built up of the pest. Some differencesobservedbetween duration of developmental stages of the mealybug in our study and some previous studies may be arise from the difference in host plants and/or the origin of the studied populations. The 6th and 7th generations occurred in winter with very short developmental time.
Conclusion: Because this pest has a potential for spreading through other Iranian provinces, combining the present results with the previousstudieson this mealybug and its natural enemies’interactions in Khuzestan, may provide a perspective for appropriate control of this pest in Iran.


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