Promising native candidates for biological control of Tuta absoluta in Italy
Abstract: Tuta absoluta (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae), native to central America, has been firstreported in Europe in Spain in 2006 and in southern Italy in 2008, and by now it has become oneof the major pests on tomato, its main host plant. In the two-year period 2009-2010, nine speciesof indigenous parasitoids emerged from tomato leaves infested by T. absoluta collected inhorticultural areas of Liguria, Sardinia and Sicily (Italy). The most abundant species wereNecremnus near artynes and N. near tidius, which appeared to be promising as biological controlagent. Furthermore, in tomato plantations infested by T. absoluta in Piedmont (Italy), a generalistpredator, Dicyphus errans (Heteroptera: Miridae), was largely found. Therefore, the twoparasitoids and the mirid bug were tested in controlled conditions to evaluate their effectivenessin controlling the exotic pest. Both Necremnus species proved to control efficiently first- andsecond-instar larvae by host feeding and parasitism. Also D. errans revealed to be an effectivebiocontrol agent of the tomato borer, preying mainly on eggs and first-instar larvae. Furtherinvestigations are needed to evaluate their potential role as biological control agents incommercial tomato plantations.