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Revista de Ciências Agrárias

versão impressa ISSN 0871-018X

Rev. de Ciências Agrárias vol.38 no.2 Lisboa jun. 2015



First record of the leafhopper Asymmetrasca decedens (Homoptera: Cidadellidae) in mainland Portugal

Primeiro registo da cigarrinha verde Asymmetrasca decedens (Homoptera: Cidadellidae) em Portugal continental

José Coutinho1,*, Carlos Amado1, Anabela Barateiro2, José Quartau3 and Teresa Rebelo4


1 Escola Superior Agrária, Instituto Politécnico de Castelo Branco, Quinta da Senhora de Mércules, 6001-909 Castelo Branco, Portugal. *, author for correspondence

2APPIZÊZERE, Avenida Eugénio de Andrade Lote 80 R/C, 6230-291 Fundão, Portugal

3Departamento de Biologia Animal, Centro de Ecologia, Evolução, e Alterações Ambientais (Ce3C), Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa, 1749-016 Lisboa, Portugal

4Departamento de Biologia Animal, Centro de Estudos do Ambiente e do Mar (CESAM), Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa, 1749-016 Lisboa, Portugal



Asymmetrasca decedens, a polyphagous leafhopper widely distributed in Mediterranean region, is here reported as a new record to mainland Portugal. Heavy infestations of this species have been found associated with peach, apricot and plum orchards, as well as on Alnus glutinosa, in southern of Serra da Gardunha (Beira Interior Region). Typical symptoms, the so-called ‘hopperburn', with leaves turning yellow and curling their edges downwards before drying-out and shedding, were spotted. Both adults and immature forms cause direct injury and the species also has the ability to be a vector of European Stone Fruit Yellows (16RX-B), among other phytoplasmas. External morphological characteristics of A. decedens, illustration of the male genitalia and a brief description of leaf lesions on peach are presented, in order to enable its identification, since it has a great potential for spreading as a pest. Not only A. decedens reveals a significant resistance to conventional insecticides, which may hinder its control, but also it has a vast host range of economically important plants, like ornamental or fruit trees.

Key-words: Alnus glutinosa, Asymmetrasca decedens, Beira Interior Region, peach orchards, Typhlocybinae.



Asymmetrasca decedens, uma cigarrinha polífaga, largamente distribuída na região mediterrânica é aqui referenciada como um novo registo para Portugal continental. Importantes infestações desta espécie foram encontradas associadas a pomares de pessegueiro, damasqueiro e ameixeira e a amieiros (Alnus glutinosa), a sul da Serra da Gardunha, na região da Beira Interior. Foram observados os sintomas característicos, constituídos por folhas amareladas e enroladas nos bordos, viradas para baixo, antes de secarem e caírem. Quer os adultos quer as ninfas causam danos diretos nas plantas tendo a espécie também capacidade para ser vetora de fitoplasmas, entre os quais o European Stone Fruit Yellows (16RX-B). Neste artigo são apresentadas as características morfológicas externas de A. decedens, imagens da genitália masculina e uma descrição sucinta das lesões nas folhas de pessegueiro, de modo a permitir a sua identificação, na medida em que a espécie tem um elevado potencial de dispersão e de constituir populações com comportamento de praga. A. decedens apresenta uma significativa resistência aos inseticidas convencionais, o que pode dificultar o combate, tendo um vasto leque de hospedeiros entre culturas economicamente importantes, como fruteiras e plantas ornamentais.

Palavras-chave: Alnus glutinosa, Asymmetrasca decedens, pomares de pessegueiro, Região da Beira Interior, Typhlocybinae.



Asymmetrasca decedens (Paoli, 1932) (Homoptera: Cicadellidae) is a leafhopper belonging to the subfamily Typhlocybinae which include other species, like Edwardsiana rosae (Linnaeus, 1758), Empoasca decipiens (Paoli, 1930), E. vitis (Göethe, 1875), Zygina flammigera (Fourcroy, 1785) and Z. rhamni (Ferrari, 1882) also noticed as pests of cultivated plants (Pollini, 1998).

This leafhopper is widely distributed in the Mediterranean region and West Asia and has been reported in many countries as Greece (Drosopoulos, 1980; Loukas and Drosopoulos, 1992), Iran (Al-Asady, 2002; Haghighian and Sadeghi, 2001), Israel (Nestel and Klein, 1997), Italy (Allegro et al., 2011; Cravedi et al., 1995; Nicòtina and De Florio, 1995; Pollini, 1998; Pollini and Bariselli, 1995; Servadei, 1971; Viggiani and Guerrieri, 1989), Lebanon (Dakhil et al., 2011), Madeira Island (Portugal) (Freitas and Aguin-Pombo, 2004), Slovenia (Holzinger and Seljak, 2001), Spain (Alvarado et al., 1994; Torres et al., 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2002), Switzerland (Guenthart and Muehlethaler, 2002), Tunisia (Chaieb et al., 2011; Chaieb and Bouhachem-Boukhris, 2012) and Turkey (Atakan, 2009, and 2011; Baspinar, 1994; Baspinar et al., 2013). The leafhopper Asymmetrasca decedens is a polyphagous species occurring on herbaceous plants (Chenopodiaceae, Fabaceae, Solanaceae, Lamiaceae) as well as on tree or shrubs species (Rosaceae, Salicaceae, Ulmaceae) affecting leaves and causing a severe growth reduction (Matthews, 1994). In the last years injury caused by this leafhopper has been reported on many cultivated plant species like almond (Jacas et al., 1997; Torres et al., 1998, and 1999), cherry (Torres et al., 2000), cotton (Atakan, 2009, and 2011), peach (Alvarado et al., 1994; Cravedi et al., 1995; Viggiani and Guerrieri, 1989), pomegranate (Baspinar et al., 2013), raspberry (Grassi and Dal Rí, 2006) and Salix sp. (Allegro et al., 2011), among others.

Adults and nymphs of A. decedens feed almost continuously, piercing and sucking the cell contents in lower leaf veins, causing the leaf a burned appearance. On peach trees, they may cause stunted shoots with small curled leaves, especially on young specimens, in nurseries, and on grafted plants. Damaged leaves may turn yellow, starting from the margins and definitively dry and die (Alvarado et al., 1994, Chaieb et al., 2011). Additionally, A. decendens is a potencial vector of phytoplasma diseases as 16SrX-B phytoplasma sub-group (European Stone Fruit Yellows: ESFY), reported on peaches by Pastore et al. (2004) and AlmWB phytoplasma, in almond (Dakhil et al., 2011).

This is the first record of A. decedens to mainland Portugal.


Material and Methods

Material was studied from Site 1 - Gardunha Agro Farm, Louriçal do Campo, farm gate location: 400 01' 33.09'' N, 70 30' 06.62'' W, 435m altitude and Site 2 - Gardunha Agro Farm, Lardosa, farm gate location: 390 58' 59.72'' N, 70 27' 20.69'' W, 400m altitude (WGS 84 Coordinate System, Google Earth) (Fig. 1).

Collection of adults occurred from middle April to the end of September of 2013 by yellow and blue sticky traps, the beating method and direct catch on peach, apricot and plum orchards, as well as on common alder (Alnus glutinosa (L.) Gaertner) trees, in the neighbourhood of the orchards. Some adult specimens were obtained by rearing nymphs in entomological boxes, collected on leaves of peach and common alder trees.

In order to obtain scanner photomicrographs the genitalia pieces were removed and submitted to the critical point drying method, using super dry CO2 in a Balzers apparatus. Specimens were placed on metallic supports, coated with a thin layer of gold and examined under a JEOL scanning electron microscope (Jeol JSM-5200LV). The SEM images were transferred directly into a computer and analysed.


Results and Discussion

In 2013 A. decedens has been captured in Beira Interior Region associated with peach, apricot and plum orchards and common alder, A. glutinosa, surrounding the orchards. Nevertheless, infestations, symptoms and injury were observed in previous years in the peach orchards in the same province.

Asymmetrasca decedens is a leafhopper (Fig. 2) with an overall length range from 3-3.5 mm. It is characterized by a general body colour green-yellowish similar to other closely related leafhoppers, namely species of Empoasca.



Specific identification can only be achieved through the study of the male genitalia (Le Quesne and Payne, 1981; Ribaut, 1936). The aedeagus (Fig. 3a) is characterized by a L-like projection situated laterally and slightly beneath the apex. The aedeagal shaft, distinctive cylindrical with a spherical base, extends apically to a narrow tube ending to the apex which slightly runs upward to a small process (Fig. 3b).

Asymmetrascadecedens feeds and reproduces on common alder (Fig. 4), that surrounds peach orchards. A total of, mostly overlapping, four-five generations occurs during the summer months on orchards.



The injuries observed in peach, apricot and plum trees, especially in young ones, was mainly stunted shoots with curled leaves (Fig. 5), as described in Alvarado et al. (1994), Chaieb et al. (2011), and Pollini (1998). Since the plant reserves for the following season are severely reduced, a slower development of trees was also observed.

In the past few years many plant trees have been imported to Beira Interior Region for plantation of new orchards. A hypothetic pathway of the introduction of A. decedens in mainland Portugal might be related with plant trees imported from countries where the species is present, probably in the Mediterranean region.

The presence of A. decedens in mainland Portugal will require careful attention from phytosanitary authorities, since it is a species that has shown some resistance to common insecticides, which would become a challenge in the future.



The leafhopper Asymmetrasca decedens has been recorded and identified for the first time in mainland Portugal in 2013 on peach, apricot and plum orchards and on common alder (Alnus glutinosa) surrounding the orchards. The presence of this species in mainland Portugal is a new threat to Portuguese agriculture, especially on peach orchards.



We are grateful to Mr. Francisco Chasqueira, Gardunha Agro Ltd owner, for the permission to use his domains for the field research.



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Received/Recebido: 2015.02.22

Accepted/Aceite: 2015.05.31

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