Journal of Agronomy Research

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  • Laboratory Studies on the Host Preference of Cotton Mealybug ‘Phenacoccussolenopsis Tinsely (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) in Khartoum State, Sudan

    Nawal Ahmed Mohamed 1   Awad KhalafAlla Taha 2   Abubaker Haroun Mohamed Adam 3  

    1Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Wealth and Irrigation, Khartoum State-Sudan

    2College of Agricultural Studies-Sudan University of Science and Technology-Shambat, Sudan

    3Department of Crop Science, College of Agriculture, University of Bahri-AlKadaru-Sudan


    Cotton mealybug (Phenacoccussolenopsis) is a serious devastating pest which goes on a wide array of plant families. The pest spread all over the world from cool to dry hot regions. The main objective of this study was to investigate the food preference and behavior of P. solenopsis Tinseley (Hemiptera:Pseudococcidae) towards selected host plants in Khartoum State, Sudan, where a multi-choice experiment under laboratory conditions was adopted. Eight plant species were screened for attractiveness and food preference to Cotton mealybug. Where the proportions of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd nymphal instars and the adult females were recorded at 2, 8 and 24 hours after release, and compared with Chinese rose (Rosa chinensis) the control. The result revealed that the proportions of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd nymphal instars and adult females were maximum on plants of family Malvaceae, particularly the Okra (Hibiscus esculentus) followed by Cotton (Gossypium sp.) and Hambouk (Abutilon pannosum) as compared with the control. However, in contrast, the proportions were very low on unpalatable plants like Zaleya (Locally known as Raba) (Zaleyapentandra) and Eggplant (Solanum melongenaL.). However, in contrast, the proportions were very low on unpalatable plants like Zaleya (Locally known as Raba) (Zaleya pentandra) and Eggplant (SolanummelongenaL.). In conclusion, the most favorable host plants of the Cotton mealybug belonging to the family Malvaceae, while the families of Solanaceae [Egg plant (SolanummelongenaL.)] and Aizoaceae (Raba) were found to be the least preferred host plants.


    Author Contributions
    Received 31 Dec 2018; Accepted 26 Jan 2019; Published 02 Feb 2019;

    Academic Editor: Berken Cimen, Cukurova University, Turkey

    Checked for plagiarism: Yes

    Review by: Single-blind

    Copyright ©  2019 Nawal Ahmed Mohamed, et al.

    Creative Commons License     This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

    Competing interests

    The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


    Nawal Ahmed Mohamed, Awad KhalafAlla Taha, Abubaker Haroun Mohamed Adam (2019) Laboratory Studies on the Host Preference of Cotton Mealybug ‘Phenacoccussolenopsis’ Tinsely (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) in Khartoum State, Sudan. journal of agronomy research - 1(3):35-43.

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    DOI 10.14302/issn.2639-3166.jar-18-2576


    The mealybug which was not well known to many courtiers since, today it became very dangerous pest. It originated in Central America, and spread to more than 11 countries in South America, Asia, Africa and Australia1

    It is reported that a number of mealybug species cause damages to over 202 plant species belonging to 55 families across the globe 2, 3, 4. They parasitize on a wide range of host plants; causing significant damages to numerous plants including field crops (Cotton, Sesame, Sunflower), vegetables (Okra, Tomato, Eggplant), ornamentals, weeds, bushes, and in particular the plants which belong to the families of Malvaceae, Solanaceae, Asteraceae, Euphorbiaceae, Amaranthaceae and Cucurbitaceae 5, 6, 7.

    Studies revealed that the pest attacks weeds throughout the year, and migrate to other crops through natural carriers (wind, water, bird and human being). It spread between continents through international trade 8. One of the researcher reported that high population of mealybugs can cause serious losses to a wide range of crop plants through fruit, flower/leaf drop, fruit/flower deformation and development of discolored welts on the rind of the fruit, flower etc. He also added that in the last 30 years, outbreaks of mealybugs caused alarming damage to crops in the United States of America (USA), New Zealand and France 9.

    Ibrahim, et. al., (2015) are the first to identified P. solenopsis as a new insect pest attacking tomato plants in Egypt.10. In Queensland, the pest was first identified in 2009, and considered as minor pest, but it became a major pest and widely spread to affect the cotton crop11.

    Recently, the Cotton mealybug has acquired the status of major insect pest in the world, and therefore, the entomologists are facing difficulties in managing this pest due to its polyphagous nature 1, 12. It attacks weeds year around and migrate to other crops through natural carriers (wind, water, bird and human being). Moreover, it has the ability to increase rapidly and spread to cover vast areas in a relatively short period of time 13. Furthermore, the pest is protected from insecticides and natural mortality factors by the presence of white powdery and waxy secretion 9. Thus, it causes a significant damage to numerous crops including Cotton, Okra, Tomato, Eggplant, Sesame, Sunflower and Ornamental shrubs7.

    In Sudan, infestation with Cotton Mealybug was reported from different States in the country. A survey conducted in Gezira and Khartoum States in 2015 showed that at least 26 host plant species belonging to 16 plant families were identified as host plants [14]../

    Materials & Methods

    This study was conducted in the laboratory of the College of Agricultural Studies, Sudan University of Science and Technology at Shambat during 2017.

    A culture of Cotton mealybug, (Phenacoccussolenopsis) was prepared by collecting adult stage from infested vegetables, ornamental shrubs and weeds from different sites in Khartoum State. They were reared in plastic containers (15cm diameter by 7cm deep) under laboratory conditions maintained at temperature of 25 to 28oC and relative humidity (RH) 25-28 %. The females were reared from the newly emerged nymphs and adults of P. solenopsis.

    In this study, three vegetables, two ornamentals, two weeds and one field crop were studied. Where a total of 8 common host plant species available in Khartoum State, namely the Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus), Cotton (Gosspiumsp), Egg plant (Solanum melongena), Tomato (Lycopersiconesculentum), Lantana (Lantana camara), Raba (Zaleyapentandra ) and Hambouk (Abutilon pannosum), were collected.

    The host plant species were evaluated against 1st, 2nd, and 3rd nymphal instar and adult female, where healthy twigs of each selected plant species with at least five tender leaves were collected, washed and dried to remove moisture from the surface of the leaves. In this study the Eickhoff, T.E., Baxendale (2005)15 method was followed.

    A Plastic dish (34 cm. diameter by 13 cm. deep) was used as a study arena. 2 cm. diameter holes were drilled in the outer circle of the dish (8 holes). The twigs were inserted in vials (2 cm. diameter by 9.3 cm. deep) containing fresh organic peat moss wetted with water. The vials were randomly inserted in the holes of the dish. A counted number of Cotton mealybug (200 individual of each stage in a Petri-dish (15x2 cm.) were put in the centre of the dish and the whole dish was covered with muslin cloth following multi-choice experiment under laboratory conditions, at temperature of 25 -28oc and relative humidity27- 28%.

    The food preference for the P. solenopsis among the tested plant species were compared with the Chinese rose (as a control), and proportion of mealybug was determined. The tested plant species were observed after 2 , 8 and 24 hours after release.

    Data regarding feed preference of P. solenopsis among tested plant species in the laboratory were statistically analyzed by Software (Statistic 8 -Software, 2003) and subjected to analysis of variance (ANOVA) under completely randomized design (CRD). Means were also compared following the least significant difference test (LSD) at probability level of 1%.

    Results & Discussion

    This study revealed variation between the host plant species (cotton mealybug) (P. solenopsis) and attractiveness. However, the proportions of all nymphal instars varied significantly (P value = 0.01) with respect to plants species and observation intervals (Table 1, Table 2, Table 3).

    After two hours of release, the attraction of all the nymphal instar and adult of P. solenopsis revealed non-significant differences between the host plants as compared with the control (Chinese rose). The mean proportion of the first nymphal instar ranged from 1.3 to 25.3, on Raba and Hambouk respectively, where the attraction of the second nymphal instar, ranged from 0 to 9 on Egg plant and Hambouk, respectively. However, the third nymphal instar, displayed low levels of attraction on the tested plants with a range of 0 to 2 on Eggplant and Lantana, respectively. For the attraction of the adult of the P. solenopsis, low population of adult stage was recorded ranging from 3 to 0.67 on Egg plant and Cotton, respectively (Table 1).

    Table 1. The average number of instars and adult females of Cotton mealybug 2 hours post treatment and host plants- Khartoum-Sudan (2018)
    Plant Species Stages of cotton mealybug
    1st nymphal instar 2nd nymphal instar 3rd nymphal instar Female Adult
    Hambouk 25.33 a a 9 0.33a 1.67a
    Lantana 19.33 a a 8.67 a 2 1.33 a
    Okra 18.33 a a 5.33 1 a a 2
    Tomato 16.33a a 5 a 1 1 a
    Chinese rose 15a a 2 a 1 0.67 a
    Cotton 11.67a a 5.67 1.33 a 0.67 a
    Egg plant 11.67a a 0 0 a 3 a
    Raba 1.33a a 1.33 0.67 a 1.67 a
    CV 94.64 106.57 109.09 96.23
    LSD 33.571 11.754 2.3848 3.4422
    SE 11.494 4.0242 0.8165 1.1785

    Mean sharing similar letters did not differ significantly from each other at (1%) level of probability using LSD test


    At eight hours after release, there is a highly significant different between the two (Lantana, and Cotton) and Raba. The proportions of P. solenopsis ranged from 0 to 50 on Raba and Lantana respectively. Nevertheless, Lantana possessed high population proportion followed by Cotton 45. The proportions of the second instar settled on the different host species ranged from 0 to 16.33 on Raba and Lantana respectively with non- significant differences as compared with the control. The proportion of the third nymphal instar ranged from 0 to 11.33 on Raba and Okra, respectively with significant differences. However, non-significant differences between the attractiveness of all tested plants and the control were recorded; with proportions for the adult stage ranged from 0.33 to 5.67 on Raba and Cotton, respectively (Table 2).

    Table 2. The average number of instars and adult females of Cotton mealybug 8 hours post treatment, and host plants- Khartoum-Sudan (2018)
    Stages of cotton mealybug Plant Species
    Female Adult 3rd nymphal instar 2nd nymphal instar 1st nymphal instar
    4.67a 3.67ab 6.67a 30a b Hambouk
    3.67a 9.33ab 16.33a 50a Lantana
    3a 11.33a 13.33a 36.67 ab Okra
    3.67a 5ab 14.33a 35.33 ab Tomato
    2a 4ab 10.33a 26 ab Chinese rose
    5.67a 7.33ab 15.67a 45 a Cotton
    3a 3ab 5a 21.33 ab Egg plant
    0.33a 0b 0a 0 b Raba
    69.37 74.79 74.76 53.69 CV
    5.3768 9.7359 18.201 39.105 LSD
    1.8409 3.3333 6.2316 13.388 SE

    Mean sharing similar letters did not differ significantly from each other at (1%) level of probability using LSD tes

    697230624078000The occurrence of the first instar after 24 hours of release ranged from 0.33 to 62.33 on Raba and Okra and high significant difference between Okra and Lantana, Eggplant and Raba was recorded. The proportions for the second instar on the different host species ranged from 0.33 to 38.67 on Raba and Okra, and non-significant differences between Okra, Cotton (31.33) and Hambouk (27.33) were recorded. Moreover, high significant difference was noticed in the proportions of the 3rd instar on Okra compared with other plants and the control ranged between 0.33 and 43.67. For the Adult stage, Okra showed significant difference compared with other host plants, and the range was 0 to 33 on Egg plant and Okra respectively (Table 3).

    Table 3. The average number of instars and adult females of Cotton mealybug 8 hours post treatment and host plants- Khartoum-Sudan (2018)
    a Plant Species
    Female Adult 3rd nymphal instar 2nd nymphal instar 1st nymphal instar
    8.33b 28ab 27.33abc 38.33abc Hambouk
    3b 2.67c 5 cd 15.67bc Lantana
    33a 43.67a 38.67a 62.33a Okra
    2.67b 11.67bc 12.67bcd 26.67abc Tomato
    2b 5.67c 10 bcd 26abc Chinese rose
    10.33b 16bc 31.33ab 55ab Cotton
    0b 1.33c 4.67cd 10c Egg plant
    1.33b 0.33c 0.33d 0.33c Raba
    86.51 56.44 60.37 60.29 CV
    15.646 18.396 23.397 42.133 LSD
    5.3567 6.2981 8.0104 14.418 SE

    Mean sharing similar letters did not differ significantly from each other at (1%) level of probability using LSD test


    From figure 4, it is clear that, the settlement of all stages (1st, 2nd, 3rd nymphal instar and adult females) of P. solenopsis increased with increasing time on the host plant species belonging to family Malvaceae (Table). These observations were supported by of one of the researcher (12) who stated that once the mealybug attached to the host, it inserts proboscis and starts feeding on the plant. It remains attached on the plant. Therefore its numbers increase arithmetically with the passage of time. Nevertheless, there is a clear consistent preference of all stages of P. solenopsis.

    Generally, Okra appeared to be highly preferred over the selected host species compared with the control (Figure 1, Figure 2, Figure 3 and Figure 4), followed by Cotton and Hambouk, except the 3rd nymphal instar where Hambouk was preferred more than Cotton (Figure 3). This finding disagrees with the findings of other researcher 16 who studied host preference of P. solenopsis using 25 plant species, and recorded that, the proportions of the 1st and 3rd instars were maximum on cotton. Other studies 17,18, 5, 19 reported that, the most favorable host plants of the cotton mealybug are Cotton, Eggplant, Sunflower, Chinese rose and Lantana19.

    Figure 1. Attraction of the 1st nymphal instars of cotton mealybug to selected plant species, compared with Chinese rose (control), at different interval time after release - Khartoum- Sudan (2018).
    Figure 1.

    Figure 2. Attraction of the 2nd_ nymphal instar of cotton mealybug to selected plant species, compared with Chinese rose (control), at different interval time after release- Khartoum- Sudan (2018).
    Figure 2.

    Figure 3. Attraction of the 3rd_nymphal instar of cotton mealybug among selected plant species as compared with Chinese rose (control) at different interval time after release- Khartoum- Sudan (2018).
    Figure 3.

    Figure 4. Attraction of adult females of cotton mealybug to selected plant species, compared with Chinese rose (control), at different interval time after release- Khartoum- Sudan (2018
    Figure 4.

    This study showed that the first instar of P. solenopsis moves quickly towards the vials containing the host plant species more than other stages, where the mean population of the first instar was high in all observation intervals as compared with other developmental stages (Table 1, Figure 1). These results are confirmatory to the findings of one of the researchers 20 who studied host plant preference and mortality of P. solenopsis on different plant species.

    However, although both Tomato and Egg plant are belonging to the same family (Solanaceae), but tomato is more preferred by the host than Egg plant, because the first plant is succulent.

    The response of the pest to the various host species is significantly different. The more suitable and preferred the host, the more is the fecundity of the pest in the locality and the same environmental conditions 21. It is reported that the insect selection and utilization of a host plant depends upon both biophysical and biochemical factors 19.

    The dietary requirement and fitness of phytophagous insect pests depends upon the nutrient chemistry of the host plant reflected that the quality and quantity of the food affects the food selection behavior, survival and reproduction of phytophagous insect pests. Sucking insects, including mealybug, are commonly attracted towards succulent plants that enriched with chlorophyll 20.

    The selection of host plant by the pest is often divided into ‘host plant finding’ and ‘host plant acceptance, where the volatile chemicals guide phytophagous insects to their host plants 22. The insects assess the plant with respect to its suitability as host species and also its nutritional suitability. However, the plant secondary compounds play a significant and dominant role in host plant selection by a behavioral response of the insects to these chemicals 23.

    The preference of Phenacoccus solenopsis for the family Malvaceae is confirmed by the finding of one of the researcher 21 who study, under field conditions, the effect of host plant species, and season in three locations in Pakistan (Alipur, Multan, Faisalabad) on the fecundity of P.solenopsis , using 10 alternative host plants to determine its relative preference and suitability as feed. His results indicated that the host plant species belonging to the family Malvaceae (Cotton, Okra and China rose) has higher number of crawlers per female which varies significantly between different months according to the temperature and relative humidity. On contrast, locality has a non significant effect on fecundity.

    Conclusion and Recommendation

    All plant species which belong to the family Malvaceae such as Okra, cotton and Hambouk are the most favorable to Cotton mealybug. Plants species belonging to the families Verbenaceae (Lantana) and Solanaceae (Tomato) appeared to be an intermediate to attractiveness, while Egg plant (Solanaceae) and Raba (Aizoaceae) appeared to be the least preferred host plants at temperature of 25 to 28oC and relative humidity (RH) 25-28 %..

    The study recommends further study on food preference and attitude of P. solenopsis under both; different climatic conditions in the laboratory and field to understand the magnitude of pest damage to economic crops so that to propose strategies for managing this serious pest.


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