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Host plant preferences of Hyalesthes obsoletus, the vector of the grapevine yellows disease ‘bois noir', in Switzerland

Kessler, Sébastien, Schaerer, Santiago, Delabays, Nicolas, Turlings, Ted C.J., Trivellone, Valeria, Kehrli, Patrik
Entomologia experimentalis et applicata 2011 v.139 no.1 pp. 60-67
Calystegia sepium, Clematis vitalba, Convolvulus arvensis, Hyalesthes obsoletus, Lavandula angustifolia, Lepidium draba, Plantago lanceolata, Polygonum aviculare, Stolbur phytoplasma, Taraxacum officinale, Urtica dioica, Vitis, adults, emergence traps, epidemiology, financial economics, host plants, nymphs, oviposition, vineyards, Switzerland
Bois noir is an important grapevine yellows disease in Europe that can cause serious economic losses in grapevine production. It is caused by stolbur phytoplasma strains of the taxonomic group 16Sr-XII-A. Hyalesthes obsoletus Signoret (Hemiptera: Cixiidae) is the most important vector of bois noir in Europe. This polyphagous planthopper is assumed to mainly use stinging nettle [Urtica dioica L. (Urticaceae)] and field bindweed [Convolvulus arvensis L. (Convolvulaceae)] as its host plants. For a better understanding of the epidemiology of bois noir in Switzerland, host plant preferences of H. obsoletus were studied in the field and in the laboratory. In vineyards of Western Switzerland, adults of H. obsoletus were primarily captured on U. dioica, but a few specimens were also caught on C. arvensis, hedge bindweed [Calystegia sepium (L.) R. Brown (Convolvulaceae)], and five other dicotyledons [i.e., Clematis vitalba L. (Ranunculaceae), Lepidium draba L. (Brassicaceae), Plantago lanceolata L. (Plantaginaceae), Polygonum aviculare L. (Polygonaceae), and Taraxacum officinale Weber (Asteraceae)]. The preference of the vector for U. dioica compared to C. arvensis was confirmed by a second, more targeted field study and by the positioning of emergence traps above the two plant species. Two-choice experiments in the laboratory showed that H. obsoletus adults originating from U. dioica preferred to feed and to oviposit on U. dioica compared to C. arvensis. However, H. obsoletus nymphs showed no host plant preference, even though they developed much better on U. dioica than on C. arvensis. Similarly, adults survived significantly longer on U. dioica than on C. arvensis or any other plant species tested [i.e., L. draba and Lavandula angustifolia Mill. (Lamiaceae)]. In conclusion, although nymphs of H. obsoletus had no inherent host plant preference, adults tested preferred to feed and oviposit on U. dioica, which is in agreement with the observed superior performance of both nymphal and adult stages on this plant species. Urtica dioica appears to be the principal host plant of H. obsoletus in Switzerland and plays therefore an important role in the epidemiology of the bois noir disease in Swiss vineyards.