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The cotton mealybug Phenacoccus solenopsis Tinsley (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) is spreading in North Africa: first report in Tunisia

ABSTRACT Biological invasions by alien agricultural insect pests represent nowadays a major threat to the durability of agricultural systems. In this study, we report for the first time the presence of an invasive economic pest of ornamental and solanaceous crops in Tunisia: the cotton mealybug, Phenacoccus solenopsis Tinsley (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae). It is native to America and has been spreading in Asia and the Mediterranean Basin. It was found in autumn 2021 forming dense colonies on Lantana camara L. (Verbenaceae) used for ornamental purposes in urban parks in the governorate of Tunis and on tomato Lycopersicon esculentum Mill. (Solanaceae) protected crops in the governorate of Sousse. Phenacoccus solenopsis was identified using an integrative approach based on morphological features and molecular analysis. Phylogenetic analysis using the mitochondrial Cytochrome Oxidase I (mtCOI) sequences of P. solenopsis populations from native and invaded areas retrieved in GenBank showed that Tunisian specimens might derive from an Asian population. We found that Nephus quadrimaculatus Herbst (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae: Scymninae) is the only natural enemy associated with this newly introduced pest so far. This is the first report of P. solenopsis attacking Lantana and tomato plants in Tunisia, and it should be considered as a potential threat to associated crops.