Handout on Rugose Spiralling Whitefly


Rugose Spiralling Whitefly (RSW), Aleurodicus rugioperculatus Martin is an invasive pest first reported on coconut from Belize, Central America during 2004. It was the latest non-exotic pest reported in India on coconut from Pollachi, Tamil Nadu and Palakkad, Kerala during July-August 2016. In a period of six months, it could be recorded from all districts of Kerala, Parts of Tamil Nadu, Parts of Andhra Pradesh and Parts of Karnataka mostly from coconut. The lateral spread of the pest in different places could be attributed mainly through the distribution of infested seedlings as well as transporting vehicles. The pest could establish and successfully complete the life stages on coconut and to limited extent on banana, however, egg laying had been recorded on a wide array of host without successful establishment.

Biological control

It caused heavy de-sapping restricted from under surface of coconut leaflets and presence of sooty mould on the upper surface of leaflets and other intercrops is the characteristic diagnostic symptom for pest identification. Extensive de-sapping of RSW would induce stress on the palms due to removal of water and nutrients, but neither colour change nor necrosis of leaves is observed. The prevalence of the pest was noticed from the outer whorls and slowly progressing towards the inner whorls, whereas, the immature fronds were not infested. We could also observe that, more than 70% of the whitefly colonies were found parasitized by the aphelinid parasitoid, Encarsia guadeloupae Viggiani indicating the natural buildup of the parasitoids. This is one of the classical biological control strategies and any disturbance in the buildup of E. guadeloupae would invariably affect the long term approach in pest bio-suppression.  In a period of four to five months, parasitism rose to more than 70% in unsprayed coconut plantations in Kerala.

Of late, a Leiochrini beetle, Leiochrinus nilgirianus Kaszab 1946 (Tenebrionidae : Coleoptera) and immature stages were found feeding on sooty mould developed over the honey dew excreted by RSW especially during early morning hours. Complete cleaning of the sooty mould laden palm leaflets could be accomplished in the experimental plots at Kayamkulam, Kerala.


Being a new invasive whitefly species, the initial spread will be quite rampant. Since the natural enemy build up of E. guadeloupae has been initiated, RSW may not go beyond action threshold as expected. Therefore, awareness campaigns are to be followed in all epidemic zones to sensitize the farming community about the whitefly pest and the need for conserving the natural enemies and scavenging beetles to ward off the pest. Sensitization programme focusing on the natural build up of the parasitoid, E. guadeloupae in RSW endemic areas should be projected as a classical example of bio-control strategy in sustainable pest management in coconut system. Our approach should, therefore, be to encourage the niche survival of E. guadeloupae and habitat conservation of L. nilgirianus for effective bio-suppression of A. rugioperculatus. ICAR-CPCRI has conducted pest-alert campaign through mass media and sensitized about the invasive pest and the precautions to be handled to suppress the pest.

Integrated Pest Management Approaches

  • Application of 1% starch solution on leaflets to flake out the sooty moulds. 
  • Installation of yellow sticky traps on the palm trunk to trap adult whiteflies.
  • Encourage build up of parasitoids (E. guadeloupae) and re-introduce parasitized pupae to emerging zones of whitefly outbreak. 
  • In severe case, spray neem oil 0.5% and no insecticide is recommended.
  • Complete destruction of RSW and immature stages on coconut seedlings by initial water spray as well as spraying imidacloprid 0.005% to avoid spread of the pest to new areas. 
  • Habitat conservation of sooty mould feeding scavenging beetles (L. nilgirianus) in the palm ecosystem.

Conclusion and roadmap

ICAR-CPCRI has initiated awareness campaign against the pest by resorting to pesticide holiday for the natural build up of parasitoids and habitat conservation of scavenger beetles. Mass production of these bioagents and scavenger beetles is under way.  In a nutshell, advent of the parasitoid, E. guadeloupae and the scavenger beetle, L. nilgirianus considerably reduced the pestiferous potential of A. rugioperculatus. This could be considered as a biological control and habitat conservation of scavenger beetles highlighting the potential of the nature and to avoidchemical pest management options.  



ICAR-Central Plantation Crops Research Institute
Kasaragod,Kerala, 671124

Last Updated on : 21 / January / 2020

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Time: 2020-04-06 07:26:25


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