T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Psyllid (Tomato/Potato psyllid) Bactericera cockerelli

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hemiptera
Suborder: Sternorrhyncha
Superfamily: Psylloidea
Family: Triozidae
Genus: Bactericera
Species: B. cockerelli
Binomial name: Bactericera cockerelli
Common names: Tomato psyllid. Potato psyllid.

Bactericera cockerelli is a psyllid native to southern North America. It has a long history of causing major crop losses in Mexico, USA and Canada. They are commonly found on potato and tomato crops hence the common names tomato/potato psyllid. There has been up to 20 genera recorded as hosts including capsicum and tamarillo. The psyllid was first found in New Zealand in 2006 and looked likely to severely affect the NZ potato, tomato and capsicum industries. The psyllid can also transmit a bacterial pathogen, Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum, that causes 'Zebra Chip', a characteristic discolouring of the tuber flesh in affected plants.
The psyllid has three life stages – egg, nymph and adult. Adult females lay eggs on the upper and lower surface of host plant leaves. Both nymphs and adults feed on the underside of leaves in the phloem (living tissue that carries organic nutrients). This causes discoloration (called psyllid yellows) and stunting of the plant, with poor or little fruit growth probably the result of a toxin.
The immature nymphs are very small, inconspicuous, scale like and are mostly sedentary.

In June 2016 New Zealand’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) approved the release of a type of parasitic wasp (Tamarixia triozae) as a biological control agent to combat a psyllid (plant louse) Bactericera cockerelli. Tamarixia triozae is a parasitoid which means it attaches to or within a single host and eventually kills it. It is a small, black, winged red-eyed wasp that is found mainly in North America and Mexico. It lays its eggs on the surface of psyllid nymphs (the host). Once hatched, the eggs develop into larvae that feed on the psyllid nymphs, eventually killing them.

The scale like nymph.

An adult Bactericera cockerelli.