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Tomato-potato psyllid (Bactericera cockerelli)

  • Left to right: adult; adult (size 2-3mm); Psyllid nymphs (Photos courtesy of Pia Scanlon DAFWA Entomology 2017)

General information

The tomato-potato psyllid (Bactericera cockerelli) (TPP) is an important economic pest in the Americas and New Zealand, and was detected in Western Australia in February 2017.

These psyllids affect a number of crops including tomato, potato, capsicum, chilli, eggplant and sweet potato, and feed by sucking the sap of their host plant, which results in poor growth and productivity.

TPP is listed as prohibited matter under the Biosecurity Act 2014. This means that you must report any occurrences of the pest to Biosecurity Queensland by calling 13 25 23 or the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.

Photos or symptoms of psyllids can be sent to: plantpestdiagnostics@daf.qld.gov.au

Overview

Symptoms

Signs of TPP include:

  • presence of ‘honeydew’ produced by psyllid nymphs
  • insects jumping between plants when disturbed
  • yellowing and chlorosis of leaves (especially newer leaves)
  • leaf curling
  • stunted growth.

In potatoes, there may also be purpling of leaves, and small misshapen tubers and aerial tubers. In tomatoes, it can cause small misshapen fruit.

Appearance

Psyllids have 3 life stages:

Eggs
<1mm in size and are laid on a small stalk. The eggs are oval or oblong and become pale yellow to orange as they mature.

Nymphs
1-2mm in length and have a ‘scale’ like appearance. Young nymphs are pale green to brown and become green as they age. Older nymphs show a fringed edge with red eyes.

Adults
2-3mm in length and jump or fly when disturbed. They show a pale yellow and brown pattern on the back of the head and thorax, and a distinctive white band across the abdomen. The wings are transparent and are held vertically over the abdomen.

Crops affected Tomato, potato, capsicum, chilli, eggplant and sweet potato
Damage caused

TPP can cause ‘psyllid yellows’, which can result in:

  • yellowing leaves
  • an upright appearance of leaves
  • in severe cases, early death of the plant.

It can also result in poor productivity of crops due to the introduction of phytotoxins during feeding, and reduce the quality of produce resulting in misshapen and small fruits or tubers.

TPP can also carry the bacterial pathogen Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum, which causes the disease ‘zebra chip’ in potatoes. Symptoms of zebra chip include leaf rolling, purpling and discolouration of tubers.

Spread of pest

Dispersal can occur by movement of plant material such as seedlings, and by flight of adults to neighbouring hosts.  Adults can spread by using wind currents

Last updated 24 January 2018