Biology and Prevalence in Northern Italy of Verrallia aucta (Diptera, Pipunculidae), a Parasitoid of Philaenus spumarius (Hemiptera, Aphrophoridae), the Main Vector of Xylella fastidiosa in Europe
The meadow spittlebug, Philaenus spumarius (L.) (Hemiptera Aphrophoridae), the main vector of Xylella fastidiosa Wells et al. in Europe, has few known natural enemies. The endoparasitoid Verrallia aucta (Fallen) (Diptera, Pipunculidae) was first noticed a long time ago but very little is known about its biology and prevalence. In this study, the presence and prevalence of V. aucta were investigated in different regions of northern Italy, both in plain-foothill and montane zones. Parasitic larvae were identified by the dissection of spittlebug adults, P. spumarius and Neophilaenus campestris (Fallen), and by a new species-specific molecular tool targeting theITS2andCOIgenomic regions, developed in this work. A small-scale rearing was set up to gain information on the life cycle of V. aucta on its main host P. spumarius. During the four-year investigation (2016-2019) the pipunculid parasitoid displayed low prevalence, reaching a maximum parasitization rate of 17.5% (calculated over the adult spittlebug season) in vineyards of the Piemonte region. Over the whole period, no significant difference in the prevalence was found between male and female spittlebugs. Collected data and rearing observations suggest thatV. auctais monovoltine and synchronous with P. spumarius, laying eggs in newly emerged adults, developing as an endoparasitoid through two larval stages during the whole summer, and overwintering as a pupa in the soil.