INVASIVE SPECIES

Alien defeated by native fungi

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Science  10 May 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6440, pp. 543
DOI: 10.1126/science.364.6440.543-a

The spotted lanternfly, Lycorma delicatula, is an invasive pest insect of woody plants in many countries.

PHOTO: STEVE AUSMUS/USDA/ARS

Within the past 4 years, Lycorma delicatula, an Asian planthopper, has become an invasive pest in the eastern United States. It can feed on many woody and ornamental plant species and thus poses a direct threat to agriculture. This insect can reach high densities, perhaps because it has escaped its natural parasites and pathogens. However, in late 2018, Clifton et al. spotted a mass die-off of the insect. They found that before they were able to lay eggs, the planthoppers were attacked by two species of local fungi, Beauveria bassiana and Batkoa major. It remains to be seen whether the fungi will be able to keep the insect populations below damage thresholds, whether they also affect native insects as the environment becomes laden with fungal spores, or whether they trigger boom-and-bust cycles of the pest.

Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 10.1073/pnas.1903579116 (2019).

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