Xylella Fastidiosa Active Containment Through a multidisciplinary-Oriented Research Strategy

The meadow spittlebug Philaenus spumarius – the vector of Xylella fastidiosa in olive orchards in Europe – communicates by emitting vibrational signals, which may have specific roles within the mating behavior.

Vibrational communication and mating behavior of the meadow spittlebug Philaenus spumariusUsing artificial signals to disturb insects’ sexual behavior is an option worth exploring to decrease reproduction rates, given that vibrational techniques have already given promising results on the population control of other insects comprised in the Hemiptera order (including leafhoppers, aphids, sharpshooters, and other species).

Scientists collected data on the vibrational communication of P. spumarius with a laser vibrometer throughout the year. In this way, P. spumarius male/female vibration repertoires were characterized, in particular those involved in courting behaviors. As far as the season proceeded, female calls and mating occurred only in trials conducted in September, while females emitted rejection signals to courting males earlier in the season. Moreover, it was demonstrated that the female calling behavior and interest in mating was associated with the onset of the egg development. A continuous noise with a specific frequency range could successfully disrupt mating by interfering with the male-female communication.

These results suggest practical applications. Mating is vulnerable to vibrational disruption, and thus vibrations could reduce the population of the insect. Nonetheless, due to the biology and abundance of P. spumarius in olive orchards and surrounding habitats, further research is needed to identify the most suitable strategy against P. spumarius, and the corresponding method to propagate the candidate vibrations to plants.

DOI https://doi.org/10.1127/entomologia/2020/0983 | via Schweizerbart